Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hanging by a Thread

The sun is shining. That perhaps is part of the reason I am so distracted. When the sun shines up here, all priorities get rearranged. Suddenly it was urgent to move the languishing tomatoes onto the deck for some real sunshine and water the seeds for the warm loving plants that just might finally come out of the soil today.

I would walk up the hill to see the swans on the loch but household chores are stacked like airplanes at O Hare. My friend is arriving tonight and the sheets for her bed are only in the washer. I have at least one row of stitching that must be done now on shawl for display July 8th because after a couple days of a highland fling with my friend, we are going south to the Big City--Edinburgh-- for a city break --book stores, museums, theatre, movies, lunch in the sunshine, castle, walking Calton hill. Who knows what we might get up to?

So in the midst of this I got stuck--I could not put blouse in closet until I sewed on button--Surely this could have waited? Well, yes and no. Given my organizational scheme, if blouse, button and needle and thread are in proximity, then go, go, go. I did relent and avoid my usual really practical habit of doing preventive button sewing on the other buttons. (Side note for recurring diatribe: even expensive clothes these days are made by machine stitching on buttons--that means stitches go back and forth but are not really properly tied off, so threads are gonna come undone).

So it is now nearly 8:30am and I am still in my PJs. Fortunately, my friend is a good friend and knows me well enough not to be too discomfited by the fact that things are in semi controlled chaos.

OK now to put sheets on the line for some good Highland air and to stitching that one row on the shawl...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Outpacing the Rain

The sun was shining. No sooner had I noted this along with my intention to walk than I saw rain on the windows on the back of the house. Not on the front. Ergo I would walk out the front door. Lest you think that I have stepped into Heinlein's (or was it Bradbury's?) fictional Doorway into Summer, let me offer an anecdote about the wisdom to be learned from cats and a reminder about geography. I once lived in a passive solar house. My cat knew where the warmth came from. When he asked to be let out the front door and it was 10 below zero and 6 inches of hard frozen snow, he quickly retrenched and went to the warm door to be let out. Alas, there is a limit to cat logic on the plains of Illinois. In the far north of Scotland, however, it can be raining in the back yard but not in the front.
So I went out the front door and up the hill to see what life was like in the hedgerows and on the pastures and to think about some of the ideas in my latest email conversation with my daughter. I think there is an article in them, but as my new pal and writing colleague said in our recent email conversation, the ideas for an article kind of swirl around for awhile before they see the light of day. And I don't know if it is the same for him but for me I usually have too many swirling and leaping and hopping. The trick is not to pursue the right idea but to be quiet and let the ideas settle out as they see fit. For me, being quiet in my mind often means moving.
Fortunately now I can walk without actively thinking about each step. I was so busy unthinking that I did not notice the young cattle stopped at the gate eyeing me curiously. Yesterday I had stopped to talk with them. One of the best lines in the Ladies No. 1 Detective series is just an almost throwaway comment about how good it is to watch cattle. I recommend it and now I have the leisure to do it without worrying about them. I took a moment to think how lucky I am before climbing the crest of the last hill and deciding that I would stop just short of the end of the road.
By now it was misty but we can have that for days without getting actual rain so I gave it no more thought than to enjoy the moist air. I threw back my hood and began to think in earnest about how the article might go when the mist began collecting in wee droplets on my jacket. I heard it pattering on the windproof water resistant synthetic surface before I felt a gentle slow moving trickle intrude on my consciousness by sliding right over that spot where Hindus put the wee dot--the third eye, the seat of our consciousness. This rain was not going to be ignored.
And so I trundled on with the soft rain drops for companions.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

New Lanark

New Lanark is a beautiful site. The first layer of attraction is the actual stone and mortar--carefully restored with a sharp eye to adaptive reuse--meaning the spirit and essence is retained while making them actually useable. That useability is another attraction. New Lanark was a hardworking industrial site and very profitable--at least for quite some time--because it looked continually at the usefulness of everything it was doing.

That spirit still prevails in New Lanark and manifests itself in a million little inventions in siting and using the water and encouraging innovation and hard work.
The river and the buildings had to work at least as hard as the people did--and no doubt they worked very hard. I like the fact that the historical reconstruction does not romanticize the life in the mills. No doubt it was better than elsewhere, but things can be better and still not be very good--hot, wet, stifling air, and deafening noise were the order of the day for 6 long days of each week.

The trees and gardens that Robert Owens planted are mature now and give a graceful frame and cool backdrop for the stone buildings.

The newly added roof top garden is in keeping with both Owen's ideas of hard working buildings (a garden adds a lot of weight to a roof) and his idea of the virtues of fresh air and garden spaces.

The labyrinth on the roof top garden in New Lanark is much like the one at the sister site of New Lanark in Indiana, New Harmony. Owen went down the Wabash to the wilderness that was Indiana in 1825 with other visionaries and reformers dubbed the "boatload of knowledge" to apply and extend lessons learned from two decades at New Lanark. Now both sites resonate with his innovativeness and passion for the mutual benefits of a more harmonious spirit in industry and at home.

One of my favourite themes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a reminder that beauty and elegance--the "heart of the Buddha" can be found in well crafted technology as readily as in a "lotus blossom" if we are prepared to look. These vestiges of the original waterworks struck me as extremely beautiful, so I include a photo of them among the trees and flowers.
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