Archive for February, 2007

Changing gears

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

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It’s been a momentous day, if moving my sewing machine around a lot counts as momentous. This morning, I was all about sewing. I had this idea a couple of days ago about making wool felt and felted sweater scraps into sweater-wearing softies. I picked out some color combos & planned to whip out four or five of ‘em. The dinosaurs got me into mass-production mode somehow (I think I made six dinos – that’s got to be some kind of personal record for making multiples of more or less the same thing). This morning I dreamed up, and executed, a plan for making room for my sewing machine to live on my desk semi-permanently and be less in my way when I’m at my computer. It works pretty well. But now I think I’m done sewing for a while. (more…)

Ben Franklin rocks.

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The store, not the historical figure – though he was pretty cool too, and I think I’m allegedly distantly related to him. I got a tip from a wonderful post on Old School Acres, comparing the virtues and uses of wool and acrylic felts, that Ben Franklin craft stores sometimes carry wool felt. We got online and found out there was a Ben Franklin not far away in Belmont, and this morning Zagazoo and I finally got around to checking it out. (Shopping/exploring expeditions are a good way to use up morning energy, before Zag’s naptime and Mama’s worktime!)

We love it! It’s the perfect craft store for me, which is good because I hadn’t yet found *my* local craft store and was starting to feel the lack. It’s a relatively small store, with about half of it being craft stuff and half of it being “variety” – i.e. party favors, toys (ranging from nice-ish wood stuff to cheap and obnoxious, yet fun, plastic items), cards, hardware and decorating items, sleds and snow shovels, puzzles and games, etc. The craft half has a little of everything, including a small but decent selection of fabrics, potholder loops and pipe cleaners and good old-fashioned kid craft supplies like that, a smattering of beads and crafting papers, and, yes, wool felt. They only had about ten pieces, in four colors, but fortunately I’m not picky (and they were all nice/interesting colors – wool takes dye so beautifully), and I bought seven of the ten. I was tempted to clean them out, but… no. The price was good – 12 by 18 inch sheets for $1.49 – but not quite that good. They weren’t labeled as wool, but I could tell by the colors and look of them, and made certain by tasting a tiny corner of the felt. Acrylic always feels horrible, squeaky and hairy, on my teeth and tongue, but I discovered accidentally that wool felt feels surprisingly soft and pleasant in the mouth. (I was the kind of kid who ate erasers and paste in second grade; I’ve given up those habits, but still am unfazed by tasting unfamiliar felt, if the need arises.)

We picked up a few other crafty odds and ends, including some socks for Zag and a heavy-duty Dritz eyelet/snap tool for me, a splurge with my birthday money from my in-laws (thanks, y’all!). It was a very satisfactory outing, all around. We’ll be back.

Maybe that’s the wrong question…

Monday, February 26th, 2007

One of Wim Wenders’ angel films – I think Wings of Desire – has a line in it that I think of often, though probably not often enough. The central conceit of these films is that angels are walking among us all the time, listening to our thoughts, longing to intervene in our lives and help us. One angel overhears this thought, from some perplexed human: “How shall I live?…. Maybe that’s the wrong question. How shall I think?”

I love that moment of reorientation: the problem isn’t what to do, but how to think about it. I’m really working on that these days. I have a strong tendency to look for reasons to do things – even to attach reasons to activities that I took up to begin with for their own instrinsic pleasure. Like wanting comments on my blog: yes, it’s fun to get comments, and it’s great to know people read, but the whole point of starting the blog was that I would take some pleasure, and find some use, in writing a little about my work and thoughts and family every few days. And I do take pleasure, and find use; so having an audience and getting comments is just icing. Yay! Icing! Crafting, similarly… I’m crafting more actively now than I had been for a while, and enjoying it very much. One corner of my mind is saying, “Put stuff up on Etsy! Try to make stuff people will buy! Maybe you could place stuff in a local store?” Yeah, maybe I could. But I hate making more than about four of the same thing, so I’m not sure a store would be real happy to work with me. I’m not reliable that way; I get bored. I have so much admiration for some of the gifted, crafty artist/moms out there in the blogosphere, but I’m just not quite that hardcore. It’s fun to make a little money at it now and then, to help support the habit, but if I get focused on that, the work becomes less pleasurable. It’s enough to make things that delight me, and that I can give as gifts, proudly, if nobody wants to buy them or I never get around to selling.

I’m going to close with my favorite underrated psalm – something else I think of often, but probably not often enough. I love the breastfeeding imagery, of course – think of your soul relaxing on God’s bosom, like a babe finally coming to the breast. But I really need those first two verses to remind myself to let go of big busy thoughts, before I can get to the peace of that image.

Psalm 131.

O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.

I do not busy myself with great matters, or with things that are too difficult for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet; like a child upon its mother’s breast, my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait up on the Lord, from this time forth forevermore.

Seeking the Face

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

I’m trying to get started on the burial icon. I’ve started working on a face – it feels like the right place to start, though I’m planning ahead about how to approach the rest, too. My Liberation Theology class last semester made me think about depicting Jesus in some new ways. I want to depict Christ in ways that run against the grain of the demure, slender, light-skinned, well-groomed (if long-haired) Jesuses of our stained glass windows, etc. I want to create a Jesus who looks more like the person I understand him to have been. I have more thinking to do about where that leads me, but one place it’s leading me is Iraq. I had the idea, early on, of looking at pictures of Iraqis as part of my study work for Jesus’ face. One reason for this is that Iraq is quite close to Israel (in fact, a lot of Jews lived in Iraq, ancient Babylon). In terms of physical characteristics, the ancient Jews and Babylonians were probably pretty similar folk, so it’s not unreasonable to think Jesus would’ve looked somewhat like a modern Iraqi. The second reason is theological: liberation theologians remind us consistently to look for Jesus among the oppressed and suffering. The agony of Iraq is so present in our daily newscasts, and heavy on our hearts, that it seems obvious to look for Jesus there. I spent some time the other night on Google Image Search, looking at images of Iraqi men. It was agonizing. Almost all the pictures involved violence, death, and grief. I’ve never seen so many photos of men weeping. I searched on “Iraqi,” “Iraqi man,” and “Iraqi victim” – I glanced over half a page of the results from that last search, and closed the window; I couldn’t handle that many images of people holding their beloved wounded and dead. I’m trying to let all that pain inform how I imagine, and image, Jesus’ face. I made a version of it tonight – not sure how I feel about it yet. The face I made looks old to me, but thirty-three was older then – life was hard, people aged faster – and he had died a brutal death, which could age any face. I’ll sit with it a while and see what I think. Maybe I’ll post it here, if I decide I like it well enough. But the camera battery’s dead right now, so I don’t have to make that decision tonight.

Satisfactory.

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

A lovely day – puttering, tidying, cooking, and resting, and then a small dinner party with our old friends B & E and their young ‘uns, and our new friends M & J, whom we met in September and feel like we’ve known forever. Our guests hadn’t met before but all had a great time together, which is always delightful. The occasion was my husband’s birthday, observed; this year the actual birthday fell on Ash Wednesday. He hates it when that happens. It’s been a nice birthday season at our house. Mine was at the beginning of the month (remember, when the blog started?), but we just got a passel of presents this week – some terrific books from my family, a check to spend from my in-laws (I’m thinking of buying geeky liturgy books – I should have more of those), other cool and beautiful odds & ends. I love February.

B & E’s kids are almost-3 and just-over-1. It’s fun watching Zagazoo interact with them. The big girl fascinates him, but he can’t quite keep up, and she gets frustated when he can’t understand her. The little boy is too young to be very interesting to Zag, but he played nicely with him for a few minutes now and then, finding him less perplexing than the big girl. Zag’s at such an interesting age – though he’s slightly closer in age to the 1-year-old, he’s clearly more like the 3-year-old, having crossed some hard-to-define yet monumental line between baby and kid. But he’s only a rookie kid, just a beginner, and he doesn’ t know how to do all the kid stuff yet. Still, in spite of diverse ages and skills, there were periods when all three played together very nicely – our electronic keyboard proved big and fun enough to accommodate several young musicians. There was much dancing. Zag also discovered that if he walked into the middle of the room and shouted, “Yay!”, all the adults in the room would laugh and yell “Yay!” back at him. Little ham.

By the way, I discovered Friday that my friend and fellow Hogwarts student Jennifer is also a blogger. I’ve known Jennifer for several months now, but we’ve decided to be buddies and not just acquaintances. It’s nice. You can find her on my blogroll under Ordinary Time.

Keeping a holy Lent

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

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This Lent I’m taking on an art project. I want to make a burial icon. I’ve made one once before, for the Church of the Advocate. We use it in our Good Friday procession, and our Friday night vigil and Easter Vigil liturgies. (The picture at the bottom of this post shows us laying flowers around it at the end of the Good Friday Way of the Cross.) This year we’ll be away from the Advocate for Holy Week, but I’m hoping we’ll find the chance to share at least one of the liturgies we developed there – most likely our Good Friday vigil/wake, which was really powerful last year. I’ll say more about it later, but the basic idea is we gather around the burial icon, representing Jesus in his shroud; we drink tea; we read poetry; we sit in silence; and we share stories about Jesus and the stuff he did and said that we remember the most. I’m looking forward to sharing this with some folks here at EDS and hereabouts. Trouble is, we don’t have a burial icon. The one I made for the Advocate, belongs to the Advocate. So it seems like time to make another, one that can be with me here at EDS and travel with me to my next community.

I’m in the very early stages of conceptualizing how to do this, but I want to work along on it very thoughtfully, slowly, and prayerfully over the weeks of Lent. First step, of course, is beginning to plan out the shape and how it will fit on the board. That’s the picture, above: the board. The icon I made for the Church of the Advocate was rather smaller than life-sized (maybe 4 1/2 feet by 1 foot across?), but large enough that, when carrying it wrapped in a sheet, it does give some of the sense of carrying a coffin or bier. This one will probably have similar dimensions… I sort of wish I could get a slightly wider board – I’d like to make a stockier Jesus – but this is the width boards come in. I’ll make it work.

Anyway, this will be my major work in progress for a while; I’ll write in about it from time to time, and maybe even get your help making decisions. In the meantime, I’ll still be working on my felt dinosaur tutorial, a small icon of Rigoberta Menchu that I’m making for a friend, and whatever else hits me.

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But, dammit, what if we’re right?

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

My friend & fellow sent-forth-from-the-Church-of-the-Advocate-type- person SJL stopped by from sunny CDSP to say hey and draw my attention to his blog. He talks about sports a lot, but hey, I talk about crafting a lot, and I’m delighted to see him over here and will return the visit. He has a very fine post on the Primates’ Meeting… I think his last few sentences get to an important issue that we lefties are rarely honest about. He writes,

Many conservative Anglicans [feel] that the ECUSA [is] saying, “We’re cutting edge; you’re not. Some day you’ll understand this. Until then, trust us.” I think they’re right. That is what we’re saying. Some day they will understand this. At the same time, I can hardly blame them for being put off by our tone. That’s why this is going to be so hard.

Yeah. Well, of course this cuts both ways; many conservative Anglicans are telling us on the left that we’re just not reading the Bible right, praying enough, or listening to the Holy Spirit adequately, or we couldn’t possibly be doing what we’re doing. But we progressives are the ones who are trying to be anti-colonial and open-minded, and not assume we’ve got everything right. But…. but.

I do, in my heart, believe that the Holy Spirit is calling much of the Episcopal Church, including my little self, to move towards fully affirming our gay, lesbian, and bisexual members. I don’t assume this means the Holy Spirit is calling everybody in the same direction, and I’m open to the possibility that God will tell me different sometime in the future, but God and I have been over this several times and She keeps putting me back in the same place on this issue. (Real Live Preacher describes his journey on this issue so powerfully. Yes. It’s like that.) Of course I hope that other Anglican provinces will be with us on this journey – some already are. Does that mean I secretly think that maybe some of the folks, American, African, Asian, whoever, who are now so adamantly opposed to accepting homosexuality, might feel differently in twenty years? Well, yeah, I guess it does, and I hope they do. But I will say that when you’re a friend, or a parent, and your friend, or your kid, isn’t seeing or understanding something the way you think they should, the way you’re confident they will eventually – you don’t keep telling them, “You’ll see it my way eventually,” with a wise, knowing expression on your face. They’re likely to throw something at you, and quite right, too. You keep your mouth shut, and you wait, and in the meantime, you live in accord with the way you see things, just as clearly and well as you can, so that if and when it occurs to them to look to you to see how you’re doing things, there you’ll be.
As a final note, hoping against hope to stave off self-leveled charges of racism and colonial thinking, let me say that I only hope that we lefty American Episcopalians can likewise find the grace to look to the African, Asian, and yes, the conservative American Episcopal churches, to learn from what they do well. But that’s another post for another day.

Official photo from the 2007 Primates’ Meeting

Monday, February 19th, 2007

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Oh, no, sorry, I’m confused. Those aren’t the Primates; those are the felted-sweater dinosaurs I’ve been making all day, in between reading news updates about the Primates’ Meeting. Apologies to anyone who coasted in here on a Google search expecting a real photograph… (The purple one does look rather episcopal, though, don’t you think?)

My cold took a downward turn last night and I wasn’t good for much today. I mostly managed to keep up with Zagazoo (thankfully, he took a long nap– he’s a little sick too), and make dinosaurs, and do a little reading, and check up on the Primates. Here’s what I have to say about the dinosaurs: They’re fun. I’ll put them in my Etsy shop when I have a few minutes, for, I dunno, $10 each? Plus shipping? More importantly, I plan to do a tutorial on how I make them, once I’ve made a couple more and really settled on my technique. Each one is made from a sleeve of a felted sweater, plus some other bits. Zagazoo thinks they’re scary– he looks at them and says, “No,” in a slightly anxious tone–but I like them.

Here’s what I have to say about the Primates: Interesting. ACNS has the results of their meeting here. They seem to have missed the point somewhat in Paragraph 31; weren’t they paying attention during General Convention? The Episcopal Church expressed as much readiness to embrace fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report as we were honestly capable of doing. We ain’t got no more readiness than that. The Houses could have debated for another month and not agreed on any more Windsor-relevant resolutions. IMHO, of course. I do see some hope in the fact that TEC (The Episcopal Church, for those not in on the current TLA) is asked by the Primates not to “authorise any Rite of Blessing” – I think that formulation (including the capital letters!) continues to leave us honorable wiggle room to do whatever we do as local congregations. Overall, lots of folks on both left and right are upset tonight, but that’s a lot better than leaving one side despairing and one side gloating. I honestly think the Holy Spirit is present in the ambiguity and discomfort of this whole, slow, tedious, yet agonizing, situation. And that’s all I have to say about that – go read blogs by people who actually claim to be commentators on TEC and the Anglican Communion, if you want more.

By the way, my (non-Primatial) Vicar Lisa just sent me a link to PeaceBang’s blog entitled Beauty Tips for Ministers. I’m terribly excited and plan to be a regular reader. Fortunately I still have some time to make myself presentable before ordination – assuming, in the words of my standard caveat, that ordaining me continues to seem like a good idea to everyone concerned.

A question about my fine institution

Monday, February 19th, 2007

My auntie-in-law Linda asked why I refer to my seminary, the Episcopal Divinity School, as Hogwarts’. I thought I’d explain in a post, since my explanation was getting long for a comment! The short answer is that back in September, while I and my classmates were waiting around outside the chapel to process in for the special liturgy welcoming us and enrolling us as new students, we started making jokes about the Sorting Hat, etc. So that particular situation made us think of the Hogwarts parallel–but the reason it seemed so funny and right to us, and the reason I tend to use it on the blog, is that EDS has a reputation among older and/or more conservative folks in the Episcopal Church for being the most wacky tree-hugging Goddess-worshipping radical left-wing institution among the Episcopal seminaries. This reputation is less deserved than it used to be, or so people tell me, but it is still not without some foundation. As part of my doctoral studies on conflicts in the Anglican Communion, I spent a fair amount of time reading the rhetoric of the outspoken far right in the Episcopal Church, who regularly accuse liberal Episcopalians of being pagans, occultists, closet Wiccans or Goddess-worshippers, etc. So calling EDS Hogwarts is a way to claim/subvert that kind of rhetoric, I guess. It amuses me, anyway, and that’s all that matters, right?

“C’mon, everybody….”

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

I know I’ve already posted twice today; this one’ll be short. I just gathered up my courage and emailed a long list of friends, acquaintances, and relations, ranging from folks I see every week to folks I haven’t talked with in years, letting them know about my blog. And now I’m feeling ridiculously nervy about it. I don’t care if the message bounces back or gets stuck in someone’s spam filter; but what if people actually come here, look around, and think, “Golly, Miranda’s leading a really dull life,” or, “Gosh, Miranda must be seriously desperate for friends”? I won’t claim my life is wildly stimulating, but I do have an adequate real-world social life, I swear. It’s just that, aside from my husband and my mother, there aren’t many people in my life whom I know to be regular blog readers. I don’t feel the need to have a huge reading audience here at Weird Bird, but it is fun to get comments– that’s why I do this instead of just journaling, and it’s why I comment on other people’s blogs, at least once in a while. As a blog reader, I find I’m most motivated to read blogs by people whom I know. So I’m hoping some of the folks I emailed today will turn out to be blog-reading types, and will be interested in what I’m up to because they know or knew me, and will join the vast and powerful Weird Bird reading community. (I’m so grateful for those of you who already read and comment! You rock!)

I feel a little like the dorky kid at the party saying, “C’mon, everybody, it’ll be more fun if we all play!” Don’t put yourselves out just to be polite, y’all. But if coming here now & then, & dropping a line now & then, works for you, then welcome. And I’ll see you around.