Thursday, August 17, 2017

Creations of my Convalescence


The other day, I just started driving after four weeks of convalescence following hip replacement surgery.  That four week period, from the middle of July to the middle of August 2017, was a time of enforced inactivity.  I couldn't walk a whole lot, couldn't bend over, couldn't even tie my shoes.  But I could luxuriate in the juicy views of my garden out my back window.  I could watch the birds, read the New Yorker, and listen to books on tape.  I listened to a lot of them. 

I could also use my hands to create things.  Without the demands of my usual schedule--exercise sessions five mornings a week, significant volunteer commitments two mornings a week--the day was mine to savor.  No commitments, no expectations except getting better.

I sat in this rented recliner and worked on things.  That recliner made a rude farting noise when it moved up or back, but it was oh so comfortable, and hosted many a fine nap.

But I was awake more than I was asleep, and I could take as much time to work on art projects without worrying about commitments and expectations.  So, for example, I made the felted image below, which I'm calling The Last Picnic.  The original was a photo taken on the main trail at Penwood State Park, where I walked regularly with my dogs, back when I could walk distances.  I miss doing that, and I hope this hip replacement will enable me to get out there once again.  I took a lot of shots while out there, and this image is based on one of them. 

 I think there's something poignant about a picnic table covered with fall leaves.  Here's a closeup:

I did another felted piece too.  This one was already begun at the time of my surgery, and I used my recuperation time to finish it. 

This is Pemetic Trail, and working on it was a way to revisit the evergreen scented environs of Acadia National Park.  This trail runs east and west along the southern tip of Pemetic Mountain leading out to the Park Road. 

I also fooled around with photo transfer.  The simple geometries of sand ripples make perfect subjects for mirror images, and though I fooled around with more than one attempt, this one emerged from my efforts.  This is Sandy Neck:

This one uses a photo transfer image of my beloved First Encounter Beach of Eastham, MA.  For perspective, here's the original shot:

Besides that, I also put together a shibori quilt for my daughter who is getting married in October.  Before my surgery, two of my daughters and I did some indigo shibori dyeing, and made nine 20 inch squares.  I sewed them together, added sashing, batting, backing, and binding, and quilted it.  Voila, wedding present. 

I also worked on another wedding present, this one part of a challah cover.  Challah is an egg bread usually associated with the Jewish sabbath.  Why does challah need a cover?  Who knows?  Maybe the Jewish homes of yon days of yore were drafty.  Anyway, when I asked my daughter Julia what I could make her for a wedding present, she said a challah cover.  This felted piece will be in the center of the one I'm making:

Four weeks of convalescence would probably drive some people bats.  I didn't really know how I would react, but as it turns out, I took to that enforced inactivity like a thirsty traveler to a clear spring.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Loving the Last Green Valley

I can't walk very far these days.  Can't drive, either.  But I can take a ride in the passenger seat of a car.  Joe and I took a beauty of a drive the other day, exploring Connecticut's National Heritage Corridor, also known as The Last Green Valley.

We followed the valley of the Quinebaug River and its tributaries north from the old mill town of Norwich, Connecticut, and through a number of quiet former mill villages up into Massachusetts.

The mills are mostly gone now, leaving economic devastation in their wake.  The National Heritage Corridor rebrands the area, focusing on its natural beauty, among other things.  The Last Green Valley is promoted as a place for hiking, paddling,, and pedaling,, among other activities.

I wasn't in any kind of shape to do any of that, and in fact I'm not sure I even knew about those potential activities, or even the Last Green Valley designation itself.  The idea for the drive just came about as a non-physical way to enjoy a sunny summer afternoon.

And it was great.  It included the legendary and lovely Logee's Greenhouses in the borough of Danielson.

This is Bougainvillea Orange Fiesta at Logee's.  It's the only photo I took that day, because I didn't set out to record and blog about the trip.  Phooey.  I wish I had.  Then there would be so much more to show you.  This one image gives you a little idea of the atmosphere and appearance of Logee's  greenhouses.  There's an ancient ficus pumila, a creeping fig, running all along its walls. Verdant.

From Danielson, we wended our way north through the Quinebaug Valley, past roadsides of Queen Anne's lace, orange wild lilies, and tall  mulleins, with their felted silver leaves and stately spikes of yellow flowers.

Have you ever been to Putnam?  This former mill town rebranded itself as an antiques center a couple decades ago, and I've been there more than once to ogle the Craftsman era antiques.

The Antiques Marketplace in Putnam looks as if it was repurposed from a local department store.

There are three floors of antiques in there.  Joe and I have a few pieces of Craftsman-style furniture in our home.  I'm very drawn to the furniture, furnishings, and architecture of the Craftsman era. I thiink that's because my grandparents had a Morris chair, an early version of a recliner, and I associate that kind of dark heavy furniture with grandparents and stability and home.

My grandparents, William Cadrain and Lillian Tanguay Cadrain, in the room they called The Little Room. My grandmother is seated in a Morris chair.

I also love green glass, and my sister Jerol, The Flea Market and Garage Sale Queen of the Tri-State Area, bought a ton of it for me.  I don't have a photo of my entire collection, but I do have this photo showing my green glass at work at of our Seder dinner in 2017 :

That Saturday, in Putnam, hobbling around on my cane, I saw a piece of green glass I wanted.  I don't know anything about its value or history, but it was inexpensive and I liked it so I bought it.

As the summer afternoon mellowed into evening, we made our way to Willimantic, CT, which has gone farther than any of the other mill towns in reinventing itself. Once The Thread City, Willimantic has repurposed its mills into housing and its streets into a vibrant restaurant scene.  It probably doesn't hurt that the town is also home to Eastern Connecticut State University.  The dark underside:  the town faced a heroin epidemic in the not too distant past.  I'm not up on that piece of its history.  The Willimantic I saw was vibrant.

For dinner, Joe and I chose the Cafe Mantic, where I had an heirloom tomato salad and a crabcake and Joe had Stonington sea scallops.  Delicious

I only took one photo at Cafe Mantic.  This one:

We got home to our dogs in the early evening.  I'd do this drive again, and again.  Maybe next time I'll even be able to do some hiking:


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Exploring Connecticut's Last Green Valley

It's a glorious summer day.  But you can't walk.  What do you do?

I've just had hip replacement surgery, so I can't walk much right now. 

Instead, I took a ride with my husband Joe the other day, inspired by a story in the August issue of Connecticut Magazine:

The Last Green Valley, described in the story, is one of the few areas in the state not plagued by light pollution:  a swathe of green running north and south along the state's border with Rhode Island.

It's actually been designated a national heritage corridor: not an actual physical park, but a geographic area, in which local government, businesses, and nonprofits work together to uphold the historical and cultural heritage of the place, not to mention its natural beauty.

I didn't set out to blog about our ride on Saturday July 29, and I didn't take notes, or photos, but boy I wish I had.  The ride was such a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I want to share it, even if sharing means cadging photos off the Internet for illustrations.

 We started on highways, driving south and east to Norwich, Connecticut, but soon leaving the Interstate for poky Rt. 12, which winds its way out of Norwich and into the rural towns and villages of Plainfield, Moosup, Killingly, Danielson, Sterling, and Brooklyn before making its way to Putnam, Thompson, and eventually Webster, Massachusetts.

The route follows a river valley, or rather a river system:  the Quinebaug River and its tributaries, which, according to the Norwich Bulletin, include the Patchaug, the Moosup, the Five Mile, and the French River.  When Europeans came to the area, they used the rivers to power mills, first sawmills and grist mills, finally textile mills.  The textile mills, which once provided jobs, are now weathered brick hulks, or sometimes just isolated smokestacks, brooding over the landscape in these towns and villages with their pawn shops and crumbling sidewalks. Many of the old mills have been repurposed for housing, but others loom brokenly.

This photo of the Prym Mill in Dayville is from the Norwich Bulletin

This refurbished mill in Plainfield, now condominiums, was the Plainfield Woolen Company.
These old mills are tokens of the reasons why this area of the state is known for its poverty and the social problems that go along with it.  I'm thinking that the National Historic Corridor designation goes some way toward turning that story around, focusing as it does on the culture and natural beauty of the area, and bringing in people like me to explore it.

The scenery was midsummer lush, all Queen Anne's Lace and orange wild lilies, and the few stops we made were delightful.

The first was at Logee's Greenhouse in Danielson, Connecticut.  Did you know that Danielson isn't a town on its own, but a borough of the town of Killingly?  There in Danielson are the venerable Logee's Greenhouses, founded in 1892. Logee's is known for its unusual tropical greenhouse plants, as the man who started it, Ernest Logee, was an avid horticulturalist.  Its several greenhouses are buried halfway into the ground and its aisles are twined with the tiny heartshaped leaves of a ficus pumila, a tropical vine which I imagine must be as old as the building.

The greenhouse interiors are as labyrinthine as they are green.

For some reason on which I'm not entirely clear, Logee's is now operated by a descendant of the original Logee family, a guy named Byron Martin.  I remember Byron from Michael J. Whalen Junior High in my hometown of Hamden, Connecticut.  His dad, another Byron Martin, was a minister in town.  Last time I saw Byron the son, he was about 12 years old, riding his bike down Brook Street like a bat out of hell, standing on the pedals.    Now he's the owner of Logee's and the guy in this video:

He probably doesn't remember me.  I only remember him because I have the blessing or curse of remembering everything and everyone, always and forever after, amen.

Back at Logee's, neither Joe nor I set out to buy plants, but the greenhouse was so lovely, and the plants so luscious, that we each bought a few.  I chose this Black Jewel orchid for its velvety dark  foliage streaked with orange:

I've never grown this one before, but I understand it's fairly undemanding for an orchid. It flowers, too.  Take a look:

I also chose a flowering maple, Abutilon Miss Marmalade.  I've had good luck with flowering maples in the past.

Joe chose the drama of a night blooming cereus, epiphylum oxypetalum Mark Twain, a plant once grown in Mark Twain's home conservatory.

Joe also bought a carnivorous plant known as a sundew.  He's had good luck with another carnivorous plant lately, and his success with that pitcher plant has inspired his purchase of the sundew.  He plans to put them both in a terrarium.

So much more to say about Logee's--the lush greenhouse smell, the remote location--and the tiny borough of Danielson itself.  And I haven't even begun to tell you about the Antiques Marketplace in Putnam, and the beautiful piece of green glass I bought there, and the Cafe Mantic, in the old mill town of Willimantic, where Joe and I had a delightful locally sourced dinner.  Maybe I'll tell you about those next time.