Walking in the World

Urban Walking

Stitched Stories

We drove up to Cambridge this morning to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum to see their latest exhibit, Sampled Lives. The museum has a number of antique samplers in its collection, and has curated the best of them into a lovely and informative show.

As I’m currently working to reproduce the 1798 sampler that is part of the Labyrinthos collection (read about it here), this was an unprecedented opportunity to study the colours, threads, fabrics, and motifs from a wide assortment of originals. Oh, those tiny stitches… some more perfect than others, but all hinting at storied lives, unique personalities, and passing time. I find there is incredible intimacy in examining another woman’s handiwork; I’m looking straight into her soul when I examine her careful stitches, study the effect of her many choices about colours and motifs, and read the verses it must have taken weeks to work. Because stitching is such an important part of my self-expression, I can read deeply from a carefully preserved sampler that someone else has stitched centuries before I was born.

14 Jun 2017

Reflections in London

I’m feeling drawn to London lately, with its cosmopolitan flair and colourful neighbourhoods. Often it’s woolly things that beckon me into the big city, but yesterday was all about meandering in search of labyrinths and mazes, on foot, train, and bus. Sunshine, spring blossoms, and maze-y artistry are a great lift to the spirits, and our sense of exploration and play helped to dispel the dark violence that invaded our week on Wednesday.

Victory Park Mirror Labyrinth

We met a friend at the Mirror Labyrinth in Victory Park to admire the artistry and play with our fractured reflections, then caught the 97 bus to Leyton where we visited Coronation Gardens with its gentle but profound juxtapositioning of old and new, serious and fun. To get to the hedge maze at the far end of the park, for instance, we passed by a particularly inclusive war memorial that honours all who served the war effort, women as well as men, a reminder not only of war but of equality – issues that are still in the limelight today.

Leyton Coronation Gardens

But further into the park is this sweet little maze, imaginatively evoking the manor houses and grand gardens of the past. I call it a sweet maze because I found it to be inviting rather than confounding. The hedges are only about waist-high to an adult, so there isn’t ever a sense of being seriously lost, though to a child, there would still be a sense of adventure in navigating the paths. I loved it.

Coronation Gardens Hedge Maze

Leaving the gardens, we walked back up the road to Leyton Underground Station in search of more of the labyrinth plaques from the Art on the Underground project – it’s become a London tradition to seek out the black and white plaques as we travel around the city. This one and the one at Leytonstone, one stop up the line, took us into small waiting rooms alongside the tracks – a feature I had never noticed before. I am always appreciative of a quest that helps me focus on details that I would otherwise overlook.

Leytonstone Labyrinth

Similarly, as we slowed down to search for the labyrinth plaque, I also had time to notice the other signs along the platform, pausing as I came face to face with Winston Churchill, whose message is as pertinent in our modern world as it was in wartime Britain.

26 Mar 2017

Roaring into 2017

womensmarchlondon1

There is a lot of pink in Labyrinthos HQ this week. And black, too. In solidarity with the many who protest the Trump inauguration, I’m dressed head to toe in black today, and have blacked out our television and news feeds during the ceremonies in Washington. It feels kind of petty, but I needed to do it anyway. But my pink knitting? That’s another matter entirely.

pussyhat1

Along with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, I’ll be marching in support of human rights and fundamental decency tomorrow. I’ve been knitting pink pussy hats to wear and share, and am taking that small act one step further by knitting a series of mini hats to carry on behalf of others who would march if only they could. My mother who died 37 years ago (and definitely wouldn’t appreciate the world situation now), friends who don’t have local marches to join, and a total stranger I met online who won’t be marching in London because of health issues. She is a veteran of numerous past protest marches, and has been a great support as I’ve prepared to walk out of my comfort zone this week.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a political platform, but 2016 has taken the world in some directions that alarm me, and (like many) I am using my annual winter hibernation to think about how I want to respond, and how I want to walk forward into 2017 and beyond. I started by looking for a word, as I do most years. I worked with Susannah Conway‘s (free) workbook, exploring my thoughts and feelings until finally one word knocked all the other contenders out of the arena. I wanted something sweet and hopeful, I really did,. Something nice to counteract the hatred that seems to be boiling in the air. I narrowed my choice down to two words, cultivation and creativity. Great words. Super words. But under my skin, I was itching, and those words didn’t even begin to address my discomfort. Mrs Nice just can’t take this any more! I heard myself start to mutter and moan, and what I really wanted was to roar with indignation and despair. Actually, not just roar, but ROAR!

And there I met my word for the year. It scares me. Challenges me. Inspires me. Time to step up and out of my comfort zone. Whatever that means. This week it means showing up for the Women’s March on London.

And I have some great adventures ahead of me this year…

 

20 Jan 2017

Collision of My Worlds

leadenhall_market

I went into in London to take a textiles class yesterday, and lingered well into the evening for dinner and an after-dark wander back to Fenchurch Street. Most impressive was peeking into the deserted Leadenhall Market which was the setting for the original Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie. Equally fun, though, was stopping to look at the advertising on the bus stops:

london-signs

Apparently London is not only open, but it also really loves San Francisco:

london_loves_sf london_loves_sf2 london_loves_sf3

And there you have my life in a nutshell: London, San Francisco, growing up in the 60’s, and a bit of literary fantasy.

16 Oct 2016

Whispered Stories

Brighton
I went to Brighton for the first time yesterday. We were there for work, but took the opportunity to see a bit of the city centre en route to the art gallery where we were speaking in the afternoon. Seaside Brighton is well-known for its phenomenal Brighton Pride parade and festivities, which happened to be taking place this weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the reported 300,000 people who had crowded the streets to watch the parade on Saturday were long gone by the time we arrived on Sunday morning. I thought this photo pretty much captured the feeling of the morning after –  a downtrodden Georgian mews sporting a friendly little rainbow flag and two empty red chairs on one of the balconies overlooking the road where we parked the car. I could almost see the people who belong to those chairs, almost hear the threads of their conversation as we passed below…

We were both curious to see the new British Airways i360 tower which opened last week, but all we could see was what looked like a cloud on a stick. Anyone paying £13 for a ticket to ride to the top yesterday would only have seen thick fog. From the ground, all that we could see was a slender shaft extending up and out of sight, with no sign at all of the state-of-the-art observation deck. Another time, perhaps.

I will tell you in a separate post about the gallery where we lectured, but for now let me jump ahead to our homeward journey. Leaving Brighton, we detoured off the main roads and meandered toward the East Sussex village of Hadlow Down to visit St. Mark’s Church where there is a large and interesting grave marker with a labyrinth carved between the angel-bedecked arms of the cross.

Hadlow2

Although the labyrinth is still clear, the  inscription below is badly weathered. As always, I found it a tender experience to try to reach across the decades for clues to an old story, this time trying to learn more of the couple buried here:

In loving memory of Lt. Colonel Francis Wheler, 4th Viscount Hood, born July 4 1838, died April 27 1907, Served in the Grenadier Guards 1854-1863, and of Edith his wife, daughter of Arthur Ward Esq. of Calverley Manor, Tunbridge Wells, born Oct 16 1847, died March 9 1911.

Why a labyrinth? What did the symbol mean to them that it would be chosen to adorn their memorial? Curiously, the sizeable monument is set apart and surrounded by a trimmed boxwood hedge, hence enjoying some prominence, but there is no mention of it on the church’s website.

Hadlow1

08 Aug 2016

On the Town

Today wasn’t the brightest of days in old London Town, but the skyline never fails to delight. No matter how long I live in this green and pleasant land, I will never get past the thrill of getting off the train, turning the corner, and seeing the Tower of London up ahead. You know you’re in London when you see this in front of you:

Tower

And this famous weathervane high atop Trinity House behind you:

Maritime

We were celebrating a birthday with a yarn crawl, visiting the best  yarn shops our capitol has to offer. En route we caught glimpses of famous landmarks like the London Eye:

EyeSkyline

And modern labyrinths decorating the walls of the tube stations (like this one in Waterloo station):

WaterlooLaby

Following our quest, we braved the escalator at Angel tune station which used to be the longest in the world (it is now the fourth longest in western Europe):

AngelTube

Did we find our yarn? This smile says it all:

EmmaLoop

Happy birthday to the other American in the village!

26 Feb 2016

Windy Basildon

SausageWindmill

After yesterday’s sunny ramble along the coastal footpath, today we braved the crowds of shoppers in Basildon as we finished off the last bit of Christmas shopping. Jeff’s reward? A sausage from the German Sausage Windmill, of course!

10 Dec 2015

Woolly Sighting!

Yarnbomb2

The Craft Club has been at it again, this time with a cute and clever autumn scene. I love the woollies, and love the smiles of the people who were gathering to ooh and aah.

Yarnbomb3

I am so grateful to live in such a fun-spirited and creative community!

25 Oct 2015

London with Kids

Tardis

I love how the very nature of London seems to change depending on who you’re with. Today was absolutely brilliant! With two small kids in tow, a friend and I took the train into London for the day. We walked past the old Roman wall across from the Tower of London, then made our way to Covent Garden where we visited the gardens at St. Paul’s Church to eat our pre-lunch snacks, chase the “pidges,” and admire the various structures and statues that are in the grounds.

Poseidon2

Maze

When that grew old, we headed over to the London Transport Museum for the rest of the afternoon. Now, that’s a place for a girl like me! Travel runs in my veins, and I love just about anything that gets me from one place to another, so I enjoyed it as much as my pint-sized companions.

Museum

Bus

23 Oct 2015

Love that Fox!

Pushchair

Instead of the woods, I headed to the mall this morning with my two favourite walking companions. My buddy picked out his own cutest-ever backpack to go with his new blue Kickers (which are to-die-for kids shoes for those of you who don’t know) — he’ll be starting preschool very soon, and as of today he’s pretty well outfitted.

I do love an occasional shopping trip!

02 Oct 2015

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