June 22, 2013
It is such a joy to be back on my blog and back in this community I am grateful to belong to, dear readers. I have a lot to tell you and pictures to share after returning home from…(It will be a surprise in my next post) But for now I would like to share something very meaningful to me. Before I tell you more, let’s take a pause, sit comfortably in the sun or in the shade, and enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of your favourite fruit juice. I am so happy to tell you about a book I read recently, that I loved for many reasons. It is called How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali. The book is written by Bonnie Lee Black.
This is a memoir, not a crafts book. It contains so much more than the making of an African quilt. Why am I telling you of this book in particular ? Because it touches me personally. The true stories Bonnie tells about her experience in Mali are about solidarity, friendship, determination, cultural sharing and hope. Bonnie created a women’s project that one cannot but love and feel proud of. This book is precious to me because it was written by a friend of mine, whom I did not know as a writer when I first “met” her.
About 14 years ago, I responded to an item in a French quilters’ magazine that mentioned Bonnie’s Patchwork Project in Segou. Bonnie was asking for used French quilting magazines with patterns she could use for her project in Mali. I found quite a few on my bookshelves that I sent her and her Malian friends. At that point we started writing to each other now and then, and we’ve kept in touch over the years.
Guess what ? Today I have the immense pleasure and honor to welcome Bonnie Lee Black as my guest writer on this blog. I am also very thankful that she has offered to share her life-changing experience in Africa as well as some patches of her life. Thank you, dear Bonnie, for telling us more about your book, your quilting project in Mali and what your hopes are.
“Thank you, Isabelle, for this honor to share with your readers my wonderful experience in Mali, now encapsulated in my new book, How to Make an African Quilt. The title, as you suggest, is really a metaphor for “connection” – cultural connection – and I’m hoping that theme comes through in its pages.
This book is actually the sequel to my Peace Corps memoir, How to Cook a Crocodile (Peace Corps Writers, 2010), about my two-year service as a health and nutrition volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa. When I completed my service in Gabon, I decided to go to Mali (rather than return to the United States) and do independent economic development work there. I was in my early fifties and felt I still had more to give.
Soon after settling in Segou, Mali (which is the textile “capital” of the country), I met a group of talented Malian seamstresses who asked me to teach them patchwork quilting. Well, that was a challenge for me because I’d never done patchwork quilting. But I soon taught myself from a quilting primer and happily created the Patchwork Project, which the women loved. In the book I share their stories and show their joy, especially as they sat together at the quilting frame (a makeshift contraption I made from lenghts of bamboo) laughing and singing as they stitched.
I took the project as far as I could in the thirty months I lived in Segou. But it could go much further to help the women there earn extra income. I wrote this book in the hope that someone, somewhere, some day might read the book and be inspired to take the project further. That someone would have the business-and-computer knowhow that I lacked – and still lack. When the talented graduates of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali begin to make patchwork quilts to be sold internationally over the Internet, then I’ll feel that my dream for these women has come true and my book has done its job.”
Bonnie Lee Black
Amkoullel, l’Enfant peul, 1991
by Amadou Hampate Ba,Malian writer and ethnologist, 1900-1991
Here is a link to the Wandering Educators website which shows a video about Bonnie’s book.
April 8, 2013
On April 8th, I posted this blog about the colour green in a way of feeling closer to a Spring that was lazying somewhere but definitely not here ! Guess what ? One week later a friend of mine, Karen at
proposed one of her photo hunts : “Colors of your world”. The deadline is on Sunday, April 28th, please have a look at her blog if you feel like participating. I chose to send this post as my contribution to Karma’s challenge.
St Patrick’s Day has come and gone as well as the green wave that is associated with its celebration all over the world. Originally though it seemed to have been the blue colour. Green is the shade many of us long for at this Season in the Northern hemisphere. Winter is not in a hurry to give way to Spring this year. Personally I cannot dissociate green from Ireland. For having lived there years ago, I remember marveling at the infinite array of greens in the Emerald Isle.
It is a colour I use a lot when sewing. I find it relaxing. Like in this small scrappy quilt where I put together some Irish memories. Edna O’Brien’s “Mother Ireland” is the first non fiction and most personal book of the famous novelist. Her memoir (1976) includes seven essays written in her lyrical and sensuous voice. E. O’Brien wrote many other works (she is a playwright, poet and author of short stories) and had to see some of her work banned.
“Irish ? In truth I would not want to be anything else. It is a state of mind as well as an actual country. Perhaps it is that, the unmitigated challenge of landscape, of rock, of meadow, of woodland, of rain and of sheer desolating emptiness that makes people hurry there and hurry from it”.
There are magnificent black/white pictures in this book. They were taken specially to illustrate “Mother Ireland” by the acclaimed Irish photographer Fergus Bourke.
Another Irish writer and philosopher John O’Donohue, born in the West of Ireland, expressed so beautifully what the colour green meant for him in a book: “The Invisible Embrace of Beauty”. Here are some excerpts of a particular chapter entitled : “Green : The Colour of Growth”.
“One of my favourite images from childhood is of meadows. Often the sheep would be let in to graze there. When you opened the gate, you could almost feel the meadow breathing. It was absolutely carpeted with grass. The colour of this grass was so rich as to seem blue-green. The sheep needed neither introduction nor persuasion; they simply gave in and became instant addicts !”
“Gravity cannot keep it down; the call of light is always stronger”
January 22, 2013
Scott Thomas’ first photography challenge this year is about Winter. http://viewsinfinitum.com/2013/01/09/assignment-23-winter/ What does Winter mean to you ?
Here is my contribution to Scott’s assignment.
Winter 2012-2013 is particularly cold and snowy in some areas of Switzerland and yet it is only January ! In an alpine area, this Season brings a lot to mind like the best, in particular the various kinds of sport activities to the most unpleasant and dangerous, like extreme coldness, icy roads, avalanches. There is also one aspect that touches both the vegetal and animal world: dormancy. If you consider the time I spent away from my blog. you could also include humans
During a train travel between Geneva and the Alps, I was looking at a landscape of vineyards under the snow. A lovely patchwork in white and grey shades, no bustling around, just quietness. I thought of nature and its resting time, dormancy. I love this unique landscape of Lavaux terraced vineyards spreading down gently to the shore of Lake Léman. The whole area is protected by Unesco. Here are more pictures for you :
First snow in early December. As I opened the shutters one morning, I was surprised to see whiteness all around. The air was chilly and silent. I smiled as I spotted what looked like two animal shapes sculpted by snow. A hare ? A turtle ? In any case, they were well into their dormancy period.
In a more urban landscape, some construction sites experience their own dormancy period in Winter. Work had stopped. A greenhouse in the botanical garden nearby was all lit up, a warm looking sight. The heat inside was such a contrast with the outside temperature. Tropical trees and plants were blooming, no sign of rest there.
A familiar sight, the terrace in front of our home. On the previous day, I sat there for a while, letting my eyes wander on a landscape I am never tired of looking at. Now it is time for garden tables and chairs to take their own rest.
The little hedgehock was on the way to his favourite spot to spend the Winter: a big heap of leaves secured from Ninio-the-beagle’s investigations. Both had a rather traumatic meeting a while ago… and I doubt Ninio will ever tease the hedgehock again. As I got nearer, he stopped his quick little steps and buried his head in the snow. Discreetly, I retreated and let him move on for a long Winter sleep.
Someone just eaten a good part of my tasty and juicy apple. See below. I had left it on the picnic table while I taking a picture of Lake Livingston, Texas, at the end of a very hot July afternoon. The squirrel’s stomach was full and contented. Not a bit disturbed by my presence, he lied down on the bench warmed by the sun, made himself comfortable and gave me a last look before entering in a lethargic and sleepy state. Aestivation ? Another kind of dormancy, away from the coldness of hibernation in the North.
Sleep well, greedy little one
How do you think my own dormancy looked like over this past month ?
August 9, 2012
Summer is well on its way. We are having such a heatwave over here ! Unusual canicular days are followed by violent storms, heavy rains and coolness. Temperatures going up and down at brief intervals. Our landscape is especially luxuriant this Season, gardens and fields are grateful : flowers, cereals and vegetables abound.
An orange-red rose, my favourite, with as many petals that open every day as the pages of a scented book you would read with delight.
Some of our fresh vegetables picked early in the morning and served for lunch. On the menu that day for our visitors: leeks with vinaigrette, grilled zuchinis and chards au gratin with cheese. We will have to wait a few more weeks to taste our purple potatoes, something new this year.
It has been a rather busy Summer with little time for blogging and visiting you, my friends, I feel sorry about this; there were several birthday celebrations, family and friends’ visits, excursions and picnics in the mountains but also quiet times along a river near our home. Days are longer and as the sun sets on the water, I sometimes meet a family of swans catching its rays as they glide gently towards the shore, hoping for some pieces of bread I don’t always have.
Summer also brought its days of sadness and loss. Two dear friends passed unexpectedly leaving family and friends deeply shocked. The sun shone brightly though as we all gathered in a small mountain village graveyard to pay homage to both friends, at a two weeks’ interval. Sadness for the great loss.
Sadness for all that remained to be shared and said. Sadness when the realization of their absence became more tangible every day. Why so soon ? Unanswered question. At about the same time, I began reading a book about Celtic Wisdom by the Irish writer and philosopher, John O’Donohue: “Anam Cara” or “Soul Friend” in Gaelic. Thank you to Lumens Borealis http://lumensborealis.com/about/ for having introduced me to John O’Donohue’s writings.
Serendipity, happy coincidence in a moment of distress ? I don’t know but here are a few lines, comforting thoughts, that J. O’Donohue wrote about death in his inspiring book :
The Dead Bless Us
I believe that our friends among the dead really mind us and look out for us…One of the exciting developments that may happen in evolution and in human consciousness in the next several hundred years is a whole new relationship with the invisible, eternal world… We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them ? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation or pain. They are home. They are with God from whom they came. They have returned to the nest of their identity within the great circle of God…the largest embrace in the universe, which holds visible and invisible, temporal and eternal, as one.”
So much gratefulness for these lines and deep reflections about death, and about much more I read in this wonderful book. Hardly a day passes without thinking of those two close friends although now sadness is mixed with the serene and happy feeling of having known them both.
For R. and J.-J. I chose this Vivaldi Cello Concerto, largo. I know they loved it.
The circle of life. As days go by, sorrow is followed by joy as a new life has brought happiness in my family. A baby girl, Alima, is sharing her irresistible and peaceful smile with us all. A sweet messenger of Peace as shown on the card her parents sent us :
“Jàmm rekk ! Kayra dorong ! La paix seulement”
Good wishes in Wolof, Mandinka and French. Alima’s papa comes from Senegal, her maman is my niece. The words chosen by her parents to announce their daughter’s birth mean : “Peace only or Peace be with you”.
Welcome sweet little Alima !
Over the past month, I have been asked if I was working on a new quilting project. Yes, indeed I was and still am. A quilt is finished and has been offered to my sister for her Birthday. Two others are in progress (WIP) ! But that is another story that I will tell you about later. Just a few shots to give you an idea.
March 11, 2012
Hello Dear you all,
As I just wrote in my previous post, it felt so good to find your warm thoughts and messages as I came back home. Thank you so much for your visits, encouraging comments and good wishes, it really meant a lot to me. I feel much better and slowly but surely all my energy will come back. As I left home, snow was falling heavily behind this window you know well by now.
Colours are everywhere though even in hospitals where white used to be the norm. I tried to catch a few of them to share with you.All day long the light changes and brings out colourful details on a wardrobe or on a bouquet of flowers. Behind the curtain the evening lights look like stars and I loved to look at the houses nearby in the soft early morning shades. Then there is this bright small lamp, companion of some sleepless nights.The lamp and the book. An interesting story and one I enjoyed reading. The story – based on true facts – takes place during WWII when some American pilots had their planes shot down by the ennemy. Many of them died. Some men parachuted over French Occupied territory and were lucky to be saved by members of the French Résistance (partisans). Dangerous days, weeks and months awaited all those involved in the rescue of the Allied soldiers, including the pilots themselves, of course. This book kept me awake for many hours until a nurse would check on me and say : “Now you must sleep !” But then during the day, she would ask me : “How is the story going on ?”
There were quite a lot of emails waiting for me on my PC. One of them was from Scott Thomas at Views Infinitum.
The good news was that a new photography challenge has been assigned by Scott Thomas. The subject is one I look forward to working on : Abstract Photography.
Maybe you would like to participate too ? Please do. Deadline is March 21st, 2012. All details are explained here :
October 10, 2011
As promised, here are some of the books I read during these past months. They were either offered to me for my birthday, recommended and lent by friends or bought after I read a critical review. This is where I usually buy them.
“The Butterfly’s Weight“ is a touching story . This is the title (translated from the French) of this little book by the great Italian writer Erri De Luca. A real jewel of a book. The writing is both poetic and thought-provoking. De Luca tells about an epic battle between man and nature. An old hunter, poacher, and an old, noble chamois; it is about their fight for survival. The originality of this book is that each of them, man and animal, tell the story from their own perspective. De Luca’s writing is just beautiful !
Unfortunately I am not sure this book has been translated in English yet, very few of De Luca’s works have been up to now. Don’t miss it when it will be. This is a book I will surely read again. More slowly this time to appreciate it fully.
Another birthday gift. I know, I am a spoiled child… The friend who sent me the following book always chooses books that I just cannot put down. I had never read anything by Carol Edgarian. She received great praise for “Rise the Euphrates”. I read “Three Stages of Amazement” in a few days, so engrossing it was. C. Edgarian’s book is about the fragility and complexities of marriage and a demanding career. I found the central characters, Lena, Charlie and Theo very likeable and believable. Their story is ordinary and yet complicated and very humane with a touch of humour that I loved. A family journey at different stages of their life through love, marriage, motherhood, grief, betrayal, adversity, loyalty, wisdom, hope.
The next ones are three books that I took more time in reading and reflecting upon. The first two books are real stories that will remain with you long after their last page is turned.
“If Nights Could Talk” by Marsha Recknagel is a remarkable, honest and courageous memoir written with great eloquence, even humour in spite of the tragic events that touched the persons involved in this stunning story. M. Recknagel’s memoir starts when a derelict kid – Jamie, her nephew – arrives on the writer’s doorstep. It is about the meanness and love in families, about evil and redemption and how one person can make all the difference in someone’s life by struggling to recreate a family. Marsha and Jamie are each other’s saviours. A beautifully written story, full of feeling and truths. I strongly recommend it.
“Shot in the Heart” (Un Long Silence, in French) by Mikal Gilmore. Mikal Gilmore writes about his brother, Gary, who was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad in 1977 after he committed a murder and refused any appeal.
“I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave.”
Before Gary’s tragic story devastated his own life, Mikal Gilmore decided to write this brave book to try and understand his heritage, to undo the blood ties and escape the family’s curse. M. Gilmore’s book is a real investigation both affective, painful and uncompromising about his own family and his origins. “Shot in the Heart” is a very dark and courageous journey.
Today, October 10th, happens to be the 9th World Day against Death Penalty. The campaign focuses on a petition asking for a universal moratorium on Death Penalty. It will be the main theme of the 4th resolution of the United Nations regarding DP that will be voted on December 2012.
Both of these books are also powerful and humane documents about resilience. They are about the ravages caused by a devastated childhood where love and respect are just absent. “Murders of the flesh and the spirit”, as M. Gilmore wrote. Reading those books was not only trying to understand the perversity of the acts that destroyed a family. It was also about realizing how someone’s childhood can be broken.
Then, I needed another type of reading, one I had meant to do for a long time. I chose Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “To Touch Life”. The Vietnamese Zen monk resides in a small community in France. He teaches, writes, gardens, works to help refugees worldwide. He also travels all over the world to share his teaching about inner harmony. How to fulfil the unity (oneness ?) between body and mind through conscious breathing and meditation.
Before saying good-bye and wishing you a pleasant week, and a good reading – whatever book is in your hands at the moment – let’s share a few quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
More inspiring quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh here :
April 24, 2011
Wishing you all a Happy Easter weekend, sunny Spring days !
Earlier on, the egg was a symbol of the earth because of its shape. Also associated with the beginning of life, it has been a symbol of fertility, rebirth and the cycle of life.
For Christians in Europe, eggs became a symbol of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. In the past, Christians gave up eggs for Lent (the 40 days before Easter when it’s customary to give up different types of food). But even though people didn’t eat them, the hens kept laying them! So people would hard boil and decorate them. This would help preserve them longer and serve as part of the holiday festivities.
At the Jewish Passover holiday (in Spring) the egg is placed on the Seder plate and is a symbol of sacrifice and loss. For some though it also symbolizes the full cycle of life, and therefore hope and rebirth.
In China, red eggs are given out at the one month birthday of a new baby. It’s customary to hold a Red Egg and Ginger Party at this time. Once again, the source seems to be the egg’s role as a symbol of fertility and the beginning of life.
The egg is a wonderful symbol of birth, renewal and rebirth. This is something wonderful to consider as Springtime has arrived in the Northern hemisphere, where the Earth is coming back to life !
Thank you to “Mama Lisa” on http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/ for sharing such great information and much more on her wonderful blog.
Here is a poem about Easter eggs that I enjoyed reading in this blog : http://www.tastearts.com/egg-poem-easter-eggs-by-addison-erwin-sheldon/ I hope you will too
Seems to me like yesterday:—
Walkin’ down the beaten path,
Where the autumn aftermath
Glistened with the April wet,
Tryin’ to look green and yet
Kind of limp and lonesome lay.
Gettin’ long toward Easter time;
Days the city folks calls Lent,—
Little that we cared or spent
What they called it, prose or rhyme,
More than twenty years ago,—
Me and my old playmate Joe;
Back in dear old Yucatan
Township, where Root River ran.
What we cared fur was the wood
Filled with flowing maple sap,
And the bluff above the gap
Where the Mississippi’s flood,—
Floating many a steamboat craft,
Many a Chippewa forest raft,—
Met our boyish gaze and curled
Round the bend into the world.
Then the mill-pond and the dam;—
Spearing red horse in the race;
And below our swimming-place
Was a cave where Turkey Sam
Shot and killed a hungry bear—
Oftentimes we’d go and peer
In about the rocks and stones
Looking for dead Injuns’ bones
While our hearts felt awful queer.
But about them Easter eggs—
We had fixed it—Joe and I,—
Talked it over on the sly,
Makin’ tops and mumble-pegs;
Playin’ marble and high spy;—
Next time Easter day come round
We would know where eggs was found;
Many a jocund, boyish boast,
‘Bout the eggs we’d have to roast
Over in the poplar grove
Just this side of Knox’s cove—
Then there’d be a big surprise:—
When we’d from our hidden store
Bring our Easter eggs galore
How the folks would bug their eyes!
I remember ‘long in March,
Mild and early was the spring.
Say, how them old hens did sing!
How the folks for eggs would search.
Mother couldn’t understand—
Fed ‘em table scraps and meat —
Combs was red and slick and neat,
Cackle, and they’d kick the sand
Through their feathers with their feet.
Joe and I — we understood, —
Playin’ ’round the old barnyard,
Watched them old hens weasel hard
Tryin’ to hide away and brood;
Every secret cleft and nook, —
Underneath the horses’ stall,
High up on the smoke house wall,
Knowed ‘em better than a book; —
Out beside the pile o’ rails,
In the tool house by the nails, —
Where a hen could crawl or fly,
We went after, — Joe and I.
Then to make a hiding place,
In the corner of a stack,
Lay a weatherbeaten rack —
Crawled beneath it on our face
With a forked, crooked pole
Worked and twisted through the straw,
Roughest work I ever saw;
Made a long and narrow hole,
Then by twisting round and round,
Dug a nest close to the ground.
In it went our Easter eggs:
Many a time I hurt my back
Skoochin’ under that old rack,
Rusty nails would scratch my legs—
Still, as Easter time drew nigh,
Poked ‘em in there on the sly;—
One thing troubled us—old Nig
Our old Spanish topknot hen,
Disappeared, we couldn’t find,
Not a feather left behind
Just to show where she had been.
Last our Easter Sunday came—
Seems to me like yesterday,
In that old familiar path
With the autumn aftermath
Lying ’round like locks of hay:—
All the east was clouds of flame
Like that early Easter morn
When the Son, of woman born,
Rose and rolled the stone away.—
Bright and early did we creep
Underneath that beaten rack,
Scratched our legs and punched our back,
Reached in for them eggs, when “cheep,”
“Cheep, cheep, cheep” and “cluck, cluck, cluck”
And Joe says “Dog on our luck,
“Ef it haint that old black hen,
‘Ef she ain’t a’gone and ben
”Just a settin’ with her legs
“Straddled on our Easter eggs,
“An’ what’s more—it beats the dickens
“Half them Easter eggs is chickens.”
From “Poems And Sketches Of Nebraska” By Addison Erwin Sheldon.
This is an addition to my reply to Linda, http://shoreacres.wordpress.com
Linda, you may enjoy reading this post http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/the-ancient-ukrainian-tradition-of-pysanka/
about the painted Ukrainian eggs, since you like them so much.
“My Ántonia” is a favourite book of mine in the American litterature. It was written by Willa Cather. Its unforgettable story takes place in Nebraska. I can well imagine that the scenes suggested in Addison Erwin Sheldon’s lovely poem “Reminiscence” could have been part of W. Cather’s wonderful work.
April 15, 2011
For the past month the internet connection in our home has been less than satisfactory. I will spare you the technical details but in short it has become more difficult to get a reliable and lasting internet connection. It has also something to do with the age of my PC If I add that my camera (not the youngest one either) has been acting strange lately, you may understand my distress about these technologies I was never an expert in anyway. This is to explain my unwanted silence on this blog. I regret it but little by little I will visit you again and look forward to these moments indeed.
In the meantime… Spring has arrived here too. Rapidly, beautifully and unexpectedly warm. In the 20-23°C over the past few days although in the past days the North wind has lowered the temperature by ten degrees. Brrrr…
Not sitting much in front of my stubbornly silent and empty screen, I spent more time in the garden; I read or finished reading several books. I also spent more time in the room that used to be a playroom and now is a music and sewing room.
Do I see you smiling ? ;) Don’t worry, I am not trying to compete with the drums when my son is practising “Ska music” with his group. The sewing machine remains silent on those occasions… but when the room is quiet my sewing machine is playing its own tune, music and inspiration are in the air !
This is a wonderful and inspiring book by Janet Bolton (Patchwork in an orchard) about “appliqué” in patchwork. My friend Marie, in http://ancientcloth.blogspot.com/ mentioned it a while back in her blog and I was delighted to find a copy of this book in a second hand bookstore in town.
La Pléiade is also the name if a well-known collection of books from authors of all horizons . Precious books with soft leather binding and thin pages (onionskin) that one turns slowly and with care. I was telling about it to Janice, another friend and multi-faceted artist, http://postcardsfromwildwood.wordpress.com/ as I replied to her comment in my post about it. I chose Tolstoi and his “Carnets”; he is an author I like to read and re-read now and then. Classical and insightful works that fascinate me.
And of course, another favourite books of mine, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is one I read slowly, month after month. There is so much to learn about living more simply, eating locally, being responsible for one’s own decisions and acts regarding our environment.
Regular walking through my colourful garden brought much pleasure. This constant renewal of Nature in the Spring is always such a wonder and pleasant discovery.Poppies, wild primroses, cherry trees blossoming or anemones, all are so welcome after the cold and not so bright Winter. I really hope you are enjoying the same wonderful feeling.
February 1, 2011
Some days are more eventful than others. A little while ago, as I opened the frosted mailbox in the garden, a long and white envelope with foreign stamps was waiting for me. It contained a dear friend’s letter together with a copy of this drawing.
“There’s part of the sun in an apple,
There’s part of the moon in a rose,
There’s part of the flaming Pleiades
In every leaf that grows”
by Augustus Bamburger
On the same day but later in the afternoon I enjoyed reading a great blog that another friend, Gerry, had just started posting : “The Gently Used Ideas Store” !
This particular post drew my attention to the correspondence between the drawing and Gerry’s theme in this post : mythology. The mention of the Pleiades in the poem was both strange and welcome.
In French, we often use the word “pleiade” to describe a group of renowned persons, like “a pleiade of artists or writers, etc…”
Gerry’s prompt about mythology made me reflect on who the Pleiades really were. So, I looked on my bookshelves for a particular book that was just waiting to be read… Have you ever heard that a book does not exist or live until someone reads it ? It seems so true to me.
I finally found this book, here it is : a “Small Mythology Dictionary”, very nicely illustrated too.
The Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, daughter of Ocean and Tethys. They were Artemis´companions. One day, as the hunter Orion pursued them and their mother, they implored the gods to save them. They were transformed into doves and then placed in the sky as a constellation. In fact, the Pleiades are only a cluster of six stars in the sky because one of the stars hides itself… Some pretend it is Merope; she was the only one of the seven sisters whose lover was mortal.
The names of the Pleiades were Alcyone, Celaneo, Electre, Maya, Merope, Sterope, Taygete.
In my small mythology dictionary, there was no mention of the Pleiades but a page was dedicated to Atlas, their powerful father, son of a Titan, one of those gods who ruled the world before the Olympian gods. Atlas and the Titans were overcome by Zeus and the Olympian gods during a terrible battle. The Pleiades´father was condemned to carry forever the heavens on his shoulders and all the weight of the world.
This is the story of a Winter day that started in a freezing and foggy morning. It ended in the sky, a dark but starry sky where I looked for a constellation of seven sisters pursued by Orion…
Thanks to Gerry and the inspiration I found in her daysprompt
January 22, 2011
This is one of my favourite quilts. I sewed it some years ago using African fabrics only. It is rather small (1m x 80 cm) and it is made with scraps of materials from various countries in West and Central Africa. A long road along the markets of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo.Most of its patterns are symbolic. These simple cotton fabrics are textile words. Those who know their language can read the social status, the affiliation to a particular brotherhood, culture or the area the materials were designed in and on what particular occasion.
This pattern was printed on a traditional African dress called boubou. I was told it represented jewelry (earring ?). The name of this piece of material is : “My husband is rich”. Obviously !
I could not find the designation for all patterns but thanks to a wonderful book (at the end of this post) there are a few I can share with you.
Women grinding millet, a daily work in African villages.
Warriors´ signs. On the left there is “The Brave´s Belt” (ce farin jala). A symbol of the belt a soldier or a warrior wears around his waist before setting off for battle. On the right, a mask or a shield.
“Of threads and words” could be the translation for this wonderful book featuring many precious pieces of clothing belonging to kings, heads of tribes, clans or areas of various cultures in West and Central Africa. Sometimes symbols have been sewed or weaved on bark or raffia clothing. These unique pieces have been also represented on more common sorts of materials. As on the cotton fabrics I collected here and there.
What I cannot share with you here is the soft touch of the local cotton. A lot of materials I used have been worn, washed on stones along a river or in a pond, then dried in the hot sun. The original colours have vanished a little but the cotton texture has sometimes become as soft as silk or muslin. So pleasant to sew and quilt !