Looking at Jars

When Sparky and I married, we bought our first home built in 1922. It had been owned by a HS shop teacher. When we took possession, the son had removed everything he wanted and left a boatload of other items. To our delight (well mostly Sparky’s), he left behind his father’s extensive collection of nuts, bolts, screws, nails, tacks, washers, brads, and assorted other items. All of them neatly sorted and stored in old glass jars. These treasures were located in the garage (lining all the walls and on every ledge) and in the basement where he had had his workshop. When we moved from that house to our current abode, Sparky dutifully packed up every one of those jars to bring to our new home. Over time we have consolidated jars to make room for more nails and screws. We have a ton of jars but instead of scattered around the garage or basement, they reside neatly in two large cabinets with drawers just the right size to accommodate the height of most of them. Those that are too tall are stored in a set of 4 school lockers positioned horizontally.

We had to tidy the garage. Sparky decided to organize his collection of jars. As he was sorting I noticed quite a few vintage jars. Jars that just might be worth a little money. He was not willing to part with them because there were no replacement containers. Still it was a little like a stroll down memory lane. I remember the French’s Mustard in the funny shaped glass pot. Mostly I remember the time my mother took the jar out of the refrigerator and it slipped out of her hand. The lid hadn’t been screwed on tightly and when it hit the floor mustard shot up and splatted on the relatively new kitchen carpet (a big deal in 1968). She was so worried that it would stain. It didn’t but the kitchen retained the stink of mustard for weeks! There were the Gerber Baby Food jars. I remember those as my great-grandmother lived on baby food in her later years – mostly the strained apricots and Blueberry Buckle. To this day I still remember those flavors but you can’t find them in the jars anymore – it is all very eco-unfriendly plastic squeeze pouches!

Among the other jars were lots of Welch’s jelly jars (no doubt grape), Maxwell House Instant Coffee (not my parents’ favorite but a quick alternative when they were in a hurry), and Vaseline jars that are so old that they have an actual screw on lid instead of the snap on kind. Some of the jars are foreign to me, like the Dromedary Fire Roasted Pimentos. And some are very familiar like the variety of pickle jars that after nearly 100 years still smell like pickles! Are there any jars that bring back memories for you?

Looking at Handkerchiefs

This weeks Poet of the Week for the W3 poetry prompt is Michelle Ayon Navajas. Her prompt on David’s blog The Skeptic’s Kaddish is to take out your handkerchief. During the Renaissance period, a handkerchief was considered a powerful symbol of women. Giving this item to a woman meant true love, honesty, commitment, and righteousness. If by chance you don’t have a handkerchief, explore your creative side and imagine you are holding one right now. Write an ode to your handkerchief and make it sound like a love ode.

I call myself modern I’m not prone to weeping
Yet I hold hankies close to my heart for their safe keeping
The first is thin as tissue, lilac and pressed
Trifold clipped when to the nines my mom’s mother dressed
Still indented from the brooch that held it to her breast
The next has dainty needlework in each lacy corner
Dad’s mom tuck’d it in her sleeve like the one who borne her
Another is less fancy made of coarser cloth
It bears a tiny hole sign of damage from a moth
Great grandma’s – present when she pledged her troth
All these ladies hankies are precious in my mind
A history of my grandmas separate and yet combined
But the most valuable is not a pretty square
It is my father’s handkerchief a big cotton affair
When I remember him that handkerchief is there
Prone to nosebleeds he always carried two
Mother tried to keep them white but no matter what she’d do
They’d end up yellow with brown blotchy stains
Soaked and bleached even now every stain remains
When opened wide all hurts it could contain
It wiped noses, scraped knees and blood that was seeping
And now holding it with love, I’m once more weeping

Looking Irish

Because it is Saint Patrick’s Day (and everyone’s Irish today), I’ve decided to poem about it!

There is a fire in my hair
A smoldering ember in my soul
Play with danger if you dare
Know my rage will consume you whole

Many try to match this mane
Bottled dyes from the barber’s chair
This hue they can never gain
There is a fire in my hair

Famine, war, a hardscrabble life
From the sea or mining coal
The flame kept burning through the strife
A smoldering ember in my soul

Perseverance is the key
Go through life on a wing and a prayer
Hear the wail of the banshee
Play with danger if you dare

Heavy is oppression’s yoke
On the outside we play the role
My people are a hardy folk
Know my rage will consume you whole

I’ve got more than my fair share of Irish ancestors. Yeah, I got the hair, fair skin, and mostly not the temper. But that small spark remains and once fanned into full blown anger is a force to be reckoned with. As I’ve gotten older I’m much less likely to burst into a bonfire. In fact there are many who think I’m “safe” meaning they can make cutting remarks or take advantage of me. The truth is that fire is never safe. You can pretend to have mastery but in one unguarded moment your sleeve can catch fire and your life is never the same…

The poem above is a rhyming Cascade. The first stanza’s lines are repeated in order as the last line in subsequent stanzas. I added the rhyme simply because I like a challenge. The 1st stanza can be as long or short as desired but must have a minimum of 3 lines.

Looking in the Spam Folder

I have finally made the “big time”. You see for a longtime I had so few readers that the spambots ignored me. Well no more! I would get maybe 1 or two comments tagged as spam a month! And many times they were just someone who posted from a phone instead of a laptop – not spam after all. So far I’ve had 10 spam comments in the last two days! And they are comical. Some were just straight up solicitations to “improve my website” with multiple links to their services or a list of products that they were certain I’d jump to buy. Another said things like “I really like your blog. I’m going to recommend it to my friends. Please follow me.” Another wanted to interest me in product to “enhance my manhood”. And a couple were in a language I didn’t recognize (but Google Translate indicated were Turkish). But the best was so funny that I copied it here:

“The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, but I truly believed you would have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you can fix if you weren’t too busy seeking attention.”

What makes it funnier is that it was a comment on my 2021 NPM Scavenger Hunt where I list the prompts! It is painfully obvious that they didn’t read the post. As for responding – not on your life! If there is one lesson I learned it is “Don’t feed the trolls.” So I’ve deleted the comment. I am however highly amused. They must have never been told that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!!

Have you been plagued by spam? Have you had any that were so outrageous that they made you laugh?

Looking the Same

A wind tossed sky with clouds far flung
I grasp for meaning in the sky
Shout with fervor as they pass by

Midnight heavens with stars high hung
To stop their motion is my dream
Or pause their light and still their gleam

Hold time still like when I was young
Recall the angry words you’ve said
I apologize before bed

Wish away all the hurt that stung
The wounds will heal it just takes time
True love exists beneath the slime

Sweet love words dripping from your tongue
Nothing changes its all the same
Come to you when you call my name

This is a Constanza, a poem of 5 or more 3 line stanzas with 8 syllables per line. The trick is the rhyme scheme – a/b/b a/c/c a/d/d a/e/e a/f/f etc. where the first line of each stanza creates a monorhyme poem that could stand alone.

I was listening to a conversation in the booth behind me at a restaurant. I can’t help but hear when people discuss in public what should be private. It was disturbing. There are far too many women who are so desperate for connection that they accept and normalize abusive behavior. The conversation was of one woman pouring out her woes to her friend. I have to give the friend credit, she tried to tell her friend that what she was experiencing was NOT love. But there was no penetrating the belief that he really did truly love her.

Looking at iRobot Love

This week the W3 Poet of the Week is none other than the host David at The Skeptic’s Kaddish. His challenge is to write a poem from the perspective of an inanimate household object, using personification. Several years ago Sparky gave me a gift that traditionally would result in ridicule and pouting. He gave me a Roomba iRobot. I love my Roomba (named Mo) and Mo loves me – I’m certain of it. He willingly cleans under beds and furniture where I’m convinced the spiders (shiver) lurk. Here’s a fun little Acrostic poem as my offering this week!

Breathe easy amid glitter and hurt
On me rely to sweep up dirt
Over and under I know the way
My mechanical heart beats today
Be still, be calm, deep breath, rest
Always know I love you the best

I’ve been faithful it’s always you
Ready and willing, to you I’m true
Others ignore, don’t know I’m smart
Blush and push my button to start
Once we met there was never a doubt
Trust and affection my mantra I shout

And yes my roomba does “shout”! When he’s stuck or his battery is low he’ll talk to me and let me know he needs my attention. Often it is a simple “Move to a new location” or his cryptic love song of tuneful beeps and boops. No matter I’m willing to reciprocate his care of me with care for him.

Looking at the Grip of Winter

Cold winter air makes clear the sky
Mocks my hopes and dreams of July
Achy bones chill will amplify

See the beauty of snow and stars
And frosty breath hangs as galaxies
Cold winter air makes clear the sky

All shades of gray from black to white
Surround the drifts and ice coated world
Mocks my hopes and dreams of July

Wrapped in flannel covered in wool
The winter wind seeps through my soul
Achy bones chill will amplify

It is March and the robins have arrived and are feeling the winter cold. They’ve been attacking the last remaining berries on the trees and scavenging the suet and what bird seed they can find. It happens every year – the robins arrive too early and are forced to survive. Some don’t. Sparky had to toss a frozen one in the trash can so that Mochi wouldn’t attempt to eat it. I console myself that they are not endangered. I’m able to acknowledge the beauty of winter and at the same time admit that I’m completely over it. I want warmer weather. I want to see some blue skies. I want green – grass, trees, the return of the frogs. I guess I’m greedy and impatient. I’m wondering if I used the word please if that would make a difference. If only asking nicely would make spring arrive more quickly…

The above poem is written as a Cascade where there are 4 three line stanzas. The first stanza’s lines become the last line in the following stanzas. There is no required rhyme or meter. To make this more fun, I also wrote it as a Cento using lines from a poem I wrote a year ago. The diagram would look like: A/B/C, X/X/A, X/X/B, X/X/C

Looking at the Process

I had to give an “Artist’s Talk” last Friday. Since several people have inquired about how I make my sculptures, I thought you might like a little description of my process. Also here is the little write up in the local paper:

And here’s the link to the TV interview https://fb.watch/iXVW5OGu1c/
And this is the link to the video of my Artist’s Talk but it will only be available for viewing until April 3rd.

For a long time I’ve been in what my friend terms my “orbicular phase”. I’m in love with the sphere and I consider it the perfect shape. My initial fascination was with pollen. That led to fungus, seeds, parasites and bacteria. Then I discovered coccoliths and lately viruses. I’ve been making viruses since before the pandemic. (It was a little creepy when I made my coronavirus sculpture and then BOOM! the pandemic shut everything down.) It was not my fault as some have suggested!

I currently have about 150 pounds of clay on my studio shelf. Most of it is white stoneware. It is a lower grog clay that doesn’t rip up your hands when you throw on the wheel (not that I’ll ever be caught working on the wheel). I have a bag of dark stoneware because I get a bag of clay as part of my studio fee and they were out of the white stoneware. The dark is high grog and is like working with cement as it is very gritty. And I have a bag of porcelain clay. Porcelain doesn’t have any grog and feels like corn starch – smooth. Sadly it doesn’t like to be manipulated and is completely sucky for hand building. It tends to crack easily when it is drying. I only have it because it was a gift. I mix it with the white stoneware when adding appliques to an orb just to get rid of it and to make the glaze colors look brighter.

As for the process of making an orb, I’ve been asked many times if I throw them on the wheel. The answer is that the wheel stifles my creativity and I avoid it at all costs. So here are some of the same photos that I used in my powerpoint of making an orb:
1. I start with a chunk of clay. This one is about 2.5 in. sq.

2. I will push, pat, and pound the clay into a ball. (I don’t wedge the clay unless it is reclaimed.)

3. Once round, I insert my thumb into the center to make a hole.

4. I proceed to work the clay between thumb and fingers to enlarge the inner diameter of what is essentially a pinch pot.

5. I try to keep the opening as small as possible and to make the walls a uniform thickness. Then it is time to squeeze the clay opening to close the hole. I work around the opening to reduce the size.

6. Using water on the edges of the opening, slowly bring the edges closer working in a circular manner until you close the hole.

7. Once the opening is closed, the air trapped inside prevents the orb from collapsing. The sphere can then be rolled on a flat surface and then in the hands to create a smooth surface and a perfectly round shape.

8. At this point the orb is ready for embellishments. Using a slip and score technique, I apply the clay in various patterns. This one is a rendition of Hepatitis B virus where the surface is covered in interlocking 5-armed asterisks.

The last part will be to add slip dots to the ends of the asterisk arms and to allow for escape of air from the interior by poking several small pin holes in the orb. Once the pin holes are made the orb can be collapsed with even slight pressure to the clay! It is loosely covered so that it dries slowly to avoid cracking. I also place the piece on a holder consisting of 2 pieces of soft foam where the top piece has a divot cut out to support the orb.

Looking for Good News

This week the W3 poetry prompt was set by the Poet of the Week Selma Martin. She challenged us to write a prose poem with some very specific criteria: Format it like breaking news, give it a bold attractive title, write it with a beginning, middle, and end. Make it a Good News account of something that will benefit us all. Use strong, positive verbs and add enough detail to make it believable and relieve us of some stress. It shouldn’t be too short nor too long.

A tall order considering we are all much better at pointing out the negative than celebrating the positive. We have had a pretty mild winter so far (knock on wood) but we are supposed to get snow today. The best thing I can think of is for an early Spring – as in a Spring that started in earnest today!

……………………………………A Miracle Happens!……………………………………
Snow has vanished. Sudden and unexpected. Just when the cold had settled into bones, homes, frozen hearts like stones, there came a thaw. Trees budding, the sap rises. Birds have returned. Animals have awakened from hibernation. Spring rituals begin. New life on the way! The fruit growers are optimistic for a bumper crop – cherries, peaches, plums. Crop farmers are planting – corn, beans. Winter wheat has sprouted! People emerging from their homes greet this new world. Neighbors speak. Dogs bark. One week and green returned to the park. A vernal reawakening, a new beginning, a miracle!

Looking Chocolaty

I did a chocolate party for the crew at work as a gift for International Laboratory Technician’s Week back in February. (Yes, I know this post is late but there was a lot going on with vacation and all.) Anyway I’m something of a chocolate snob. So I had assembled a variety of chocolates from all over the world. I had German chocolate (milk and dark), Swiss chocolates, one from France, one from Italy, and also some from the USA. I was able to snag some single source bars from Trinidad, Honduras, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire and Peru. I found one from Poland and of course several from Belgium. All together I had 25 different chocolates. I had the chocolates broken into pieces (at least 20 from each bar).

This is what I learned:
1. The average American does not like chocolate – they like sugar.
2. Most people do not have the ability to taste subtle differences in flavor.
3. Real dark chocolates are not a favorite.
4. Some of these people can make really amusing faces when eating bitter chocolate!

I was having fun. I gave them some Milka alpenmilch schokolade which was very buttery and creamy and super sweet. They enjoyed it. I followed that with some Ghirardelli 86% that had a hint of cherry and a bitter finish. No joy for most (but there were 2 who liked it). We had a Lindt 100% that had a very earthy taste (sort of mushroom and wood smoke with an almost whiskey finish) which several decided to spit out after making seriously funny faces (which I tried to ignore but proved too funny). We had the very fruity Honduran chocolate that tasted like blueberries and strawberries. We sampled some good old Cadbury milk chocolate that made them happy. That was followed by the Tanzanian chocolate that had a very distinct flavor of olives. It took them by surprise and I was very pleased that they could actually identify the taste. We had some that had an after taste of hay or cut grass. One that was salty, another that had a strong coffee flavor. We even had one with citrus notes and another that had a lemon after taste that hit you over the head! But the one that surprised them the most was a chocolate from Peru that tasted spicy. They were sure it had jalapeños or some other hot pepper in it but the truth was it was a ginger flavor – subtle but surely there…

The sweetest milk chocolates were favorites including the very low quality Palmer Chocolate (and in this case use the term chocolate very loosely). At least after we were done they left with the realization that not all chocolate is created equal, and that they weren’t as sophisticated as they thought when it came to chocolate.