Fire-proud

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One candle in the dark: this was 2 days ago, the first day

I’m quite proud of this fire. It’s taken me most of the winter to learn how to do this, but I finally managed it.

I kept the wood stove burning for several days without over-filling it with wood every two hours. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to fuel it. I just kept it burning by damping it and slowing, but not closing, its supply of oxygen. And in the morning, for several days now, behold: coals flaring to life.

It’s much more efficient to run a wood stove this way, apparently. And it makes the room where I do morning meditation much warmer and more comfortable. So I’m very excited. This is going to be a huge improvement on my effectiveness in the coming months, I think.

Review: How to Meditate

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I’m two reviews behind — last week’s didn’t get done, AND this week’s didn’t get done.  Oh, well, it was a busy week.  Facebook did one of those memories for me this morning which was quite delightful. A couple of years ago I was finding real joy in my tai chi practice.  It touches nicely on the subject of the current review, How to Meditate.  Prior book reviews can be found herePrior book reviews can be found here.

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind
by Pema Chödrön
Sounds True, published 2013
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62203-048-4 (Kindle edition)

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Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist meditation teacher and Buddhist nun: a New Yorker by birth, she is now the director of the Ganpo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.  She was the first ordained American Tibetan Buddhist nun in the Vajrayana tradition.

This book is a practical guide to meditation. I’m currently using Headspace.com (Thanks Gordon!) as a tool for practicing my own meditation skills, and I’ve worked up from 10 minutes a day to twenty (it helps to be self-employed).  Still, although Andy from Headspace and Chödrön have very different takes on meditation, the one was a useful complement to the other.

The book is arranged in several sections: the first section lays out some reasons why we might want to take up the practice of meditation.  The second section lays out the basics of meditation practice: how to sit, how to breathe, how to act or not act, react or not react, to the things that are happening in the mind.  For Chödrön, the mind is a wild and untamed thing — Andy doesn’t use quite that language, but it’s close — and the thing that we do when we meditate is train the mind to accept and work with certain realities. A trained mind doesn’t not-woolgather, for example (though this isn’t one of hers), but it does notice that it’s day-dreaming and returns to a more alert and aware state.

The later sections of the book introduce themes for meditation — scents, tastes, memories.  Throughout the book, there is an emphasis on experiencing and understanding what is.   I enjoyed the read a great deal, but I appreciated the constant return in Chödrön’s writings to the idea of experience being the teacher, rather than herself, or another Buddhist teacher.  At the core of any meditation practice is the idea that we should sit and breathe; and that all of the more-advanced understandings of ourselves and of the world emerge from this most basic of practices.  It’s a point of view that I’m growing to understand and appreciate.

I don’t have much else to say about the book, other than that I enjoyed it, and I look forward to returning to it eventually.

English paper piecing 

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Trust that, given enough time on the internet, that I will discover a craft I haven’t mastered yet, but that will intrigue me enough with its complexity and weirdness that i will have to try it. The last few days, that craft is English Paper Piecing (EPP). This technique is found in quilting, where it is used to make appliques and decorative elements for quilts and clothes, particularly jackets.

Puzzling it out

The essence of the technique is pretty simple. Take “squares” of paper, or hexagons, or triangles or diamonds. Use pins or basting stitches to wrap small scraps of fabric around the paper; it’s a good idea to use both methods. Whip-stitch multiple scraps together without including the paper scraps. A pattern or a design emerges from the connected scraps of fabric. Remove the papers and the basting stitches; repeat until the quilt reaches its desired size. More

Bookbinding 

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There’s something beautiful about a stack of books bound with Coptic stitch. Particularly when you know that the contents of each book are your own. These are copies of my Book of Splendor, a collection of poetry exploring the relationships between nature and the divine in a particular corner of New England.

These are part of a limited edition of 100 copies: numbered, and hand bound, and the hand signed by the author, that is me. I interested in buying one? Let me know.

Daring to make hats 

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I’ve never made a hat before by knitting. It’s supposedly easy, at least according to those who’ve been knitting hats for years. For those of us who’ve never knit in the round before it seems daunting. 

Don’t twist the knit!

 

I don’t quite know how this will turn out. I’m not following a pattern, merely putting one knit-stitch in front of the other until the round of a hat appears. I know that there’s fancy ribbing I could do, all sorts of patterns. I know that hats work better in multiples of eight, for some reason. I know that my own head needs about 24″ around. I have no idea if this hat will meet any of those conditions. 

The first condition is to not twist the knit as you work it in the round. The yarn has a tendency to work itself into a spiral as you knit. That’s fine if you’re making a scarf — it’s just straight line after straight line with nary a pun or a punch line in sight. But knitting in the round and not paying attention leads to a twist. And a twist leads to Möbius strips and Klein bottle covers, in knitting. 

I’ve already completely undone this hat once. I don’t plan on doing so again. Sometimes it’s better to finish a bad hat, and learn from the mistakes, than to start again and again, never going beyond the beginning. 

Little Viking Bags, finished 

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I used a lucet today to make three cords for these three Viking bags — appropriate for dice or for runes, or small stones. Lined but unpadded inside. One of the bags is spoken for, but the other two are up for grabs.

The Viking Bag is not a komebukuro.  This is a piece of fabric — the row of marching vikings, with the wave-band and the red and white stripes — sewn in a round around a base fabric, and then given a lining of brown cloth stitched with a drawstring tube.  The new cord, in a persimmon-dyed merino wool is pulled through the tube and finished with a wooden bead (or unfinished, in the other one).

One will go up for sale on my Etsy site next week. Probably the other one as well. Do I hear any bids?

Bookbinding projects

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The sewing machine is busted. I am waiting for a part to come in. Singer sewing machines in the early 1960s began to transition from metal parts to hybrids that were partly metal and partly plastic. One of these plastic parts has become so worn from rubbing against metal constantly, that it has become un-usable.

Accordingly I have shifted over to bookbinding for the moment while waiting for the part to come in. Two of these books got bound this weekend — an orange copy of The Book of Splendor, intended for a friend. And a gray copy of The Mansions of the Moon. And finally, this morning, a black copy of The Behenian Stars

I’m least happy with the Behenian Stars binding. The other two books are substantial enough for a Coptic stitch binding. But The Behenian Stars is not. It’s only two quires or signatures, and it doesn’t really hang together properly. The Mansions of the Moon, likewise, is a little flimsy but it may improve with weighting and pressing it a bit. We’ll see.

I have eight more copies of the Book of Splendor to bind. This one isn’t ready for purchase yet, though it will be expensive: hand-made covers, hand-bound by the author? The Behenian Stars is available on both Etsy and Amazon as a digital PDF, but to sell a physical copy of it, I think I’ll need to thicken the book up a bit. Maybe if I combine it with the Mansions book, both together will be dense enough to bind easily.

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