Monthly Archives: October 2010


Flowers akimbo in water.

Our modern memorials try to strike a balance between remembering the dead as individuals and honoring them in their community identity. We inscribe their names, we give them separate stations, but then we make the markers all the same.

It is left to the mourners, still among the living, to remind us of the unique personhood of each one who died through the most common and ubiquitous of rituals: the adornment of a memorial with flowers. Because flowers fade, we can imagine how recently the family or friends visited, we can picture them placing their offering, we are seized with the singularity of their loss.

Flowers, like people, are in some ways all alike. But that is not why we love them.

Left at the Pentagon Memorial, Arlington, VA

A Year Ago: House of Knowledge

Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington, DCThe Library of Congress…
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Colorful light fixtures.

Last night I went to a reading at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda given by Patti Digh of 37 Days. I learned about it from Michele Woodward, and as soon as I heard that Crystal Williams (of Big Bright Bulb) was going to be there, I knew I wanted to be too.

In her talk, Patti outlined “Six Creative Commitments” that she discusses in her just-published book Creative Is a Verb:

  1. Be ordinary (derived from improv: i.e., don’t try to be so darned clever, for the poker-players among my readers “avoid Fancy-Play Syndrome”);
  2. See more
  3. Get present
  4. Catch fire
  5. Clear ground
  6. Let go

I think I do pretty well with items 2-5, but need to put some more effort into both not complicating things unnecessarily AND not being overly attached to the outcome or whether it’s well-received.

That said, I was really touched that Crystal chose to wear to the event a scarf I’d made and given to her. Especially after the way the week has gone, it just felt really affirming to me. I am lucky to know her: Crystal’s smarts, humor, and kindness are epic.

As part of her talk, Patti had us do an exercise: take one minute and draw a self-portrait on an index card she provided. Here’s mine. It accurately reflects that I got my hair cut that day, and that I was sporting a scarf (but of course!). I do not vouch for the verisimilitude of any of the rest.


The photograph is from an ice-cream shop (I think). Honestly, I saw those lights, popped in, snapped the picture, and ducked out without even registering the name of the enterprise. It’s also new enough that the storefront it inhabits is empty in the GoogleMaps streetview. Anybody recognize this establishment? [Update: It's Yogiberry, I think.]

A Year Ago: Camouflage of Decay

Rotting leaf on log.Of everything I’ve ever photographed in color…
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Crepe de chine scarf

I will not be defeated.

I’m still scrambling to find an alternative printing solution. But in the meantime, I attacked the unacceptable, lousy, no-good, bad sample with a pair of sharp scissors and cut out the parts that sucked the worst.

I sat down at a sewing machine and cobbled together the remaining pieces to make this unconventional scarf. It’s not at all what I have in mind, and it still bears no resemblance to what I sent out, but it gives me hope that if I do manage to find a vendor that can actually reproduce the files I’m creating, well… I think I’ll have something special.

Silk scarf detail Patchwork silk scarf

A Year Ago: Light Show


Io in True Color

You’re looking at the Astronomy Picture of the Day every day, right? For some (baffling) reason they don’t have an RSS feed, but it’s worth a regular visit anyway.

A Year Ago: Symbols

Manhole cover with spray paint markings.
This one is a partial nod to my brother-from-another-mother…
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Bent, But Not Bowed

Bonsai, National Arboretum, Washington, DC

So, today was all about trying to get past yesterday’s setbacks.

I’m proud to say that I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and got back on the trail. While there’s no doubt that the whole enterprise is still in jeopardy, if it doesn’t work it won’t be because I didn’t try my hardest.

A Year Ago: Tropical Shadows

Bamboo shadows on banana leaf.The colder and grayer it gets…
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Falling Down

Fountain in Rosslyn, VA.

Things were going so well.

I was on a roll, creatively. I was moving forward, making progress toward a time-sensitive goal. I was patiently iterating—something of a recently acquired practice for me (I much prefer to have things be right the first time).

Today I got a big fat reality check, and it was marked “insufficient funds.” Not literally: this isn’t about money, at least not yet. The vendor I was working with sent me a fabric sample so wretched as to kill my fondest hopes for silk printing. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

I immediately got busy and contacted two other printers. One is China-based and currently saying they have a 3-week turnaround. The other seems like a fly-by-night kind of operation; the person who answered the phone there sounded like she was in her kitchen, no company name, nothing… the impression was really unprofessional.

So I’m reeling. I was so hoping that I could move forward to production, but that’s out of the question now, at least as originally planned. A whole bunch of new things are going to have to go really right, really quickly if I’m to make my timeline.

What are the odds? If past experience is any indicator: not good.

A Year Ago: Eastern Lights

Benoît B. Mandelbrot

Ten days ago I posted a video of a Mandelbox animation. A week later, Benoît Mandelbrot, the man who brought fractals into the mathematical mainstream and revolutionized our understanding of a whole vast array of natural and platonic structures, died of pancreatic cancer. It’s a sad bit of synchronicity.

A detail from The New York Times’s article (free registration required):

Benoît B. Mandelbrot (he added the middle initial himself, though it does not stand for a middle name) was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw.

What did that middle initial stand for? When did he add it?

Perhaps it stood for “Benoît B. Mandelbrot.” That sort of fractal recursion would have been delicious to him, I should think. (And I bet almond bread’s pretty tasty too.)

He led an interesting, mercurial, brilliant life. Ave atque vale, Dr. Mandelbrot.

A Year Ago: Looking Up

Stained glass dome, Lobby of Harrah's, Atlantic City, NJStained glass dome over the lobby…
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Thou Preparest A Table

Fountain in Bethesda, MD

This fountain in Bethesda is engraved with a quotation from Winnie the Pooh. Despite this whimsy, I find there to be something downright Old Testament about it.

A Year Ago: Not In Use

Metal hook-eye.Metal, brick, ivy…
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Purse designed by me.

I’ve been getting fabric samples pretty regularly these days. Yesterday, in a fit of OMG-Must-Make-Something-Right-Now I started quilting. Today, I finished up this bag. It’s lined, and it has a magnetic closure and one cellphone-sized internal pocket. The straps should be quilted too, but you know what? Life is too short. At least I’m using my own fabrics now, right?

October 15th happens to be Deb’s birthday. Voilà, birthday present!

A Year Ago: A Visitor Arrives

Roots, Rising

Tree roots.

I remember being told, as a child, that the root system of trees was as large and extensive underground as their branches were in the air. I was fascinated by the idea of a mirror structure in the earth. I drew symmetrical pictures with a horizontal line representing the surface level of soil. I loved the idea of the unseen being as complicated and substantial as the seen, yet somehow knowable to those who were in on the secret. The knowledge of roots was esoteric and mysterious, and to be aware of this mystery somehow made me powerful.

You can see some previous attention paid to roots here and here.

A Year Ago: Desert Landscape

Back wall of my freezer.You’d never find evidence of global warming in my freezer…
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