Moving Fabric

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If I get my appreciation and love of fabric from anyone, it would be my mom. Here is the contents of her sewing studio, and years of collected notions and bolts of fabric, on the back of my friend Bruce’s pick up truck. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a friend with a big truck when it comes time to moving.

I think I mentioned that my mom is moving to Patagonia. Here she is putting the last few things on the truck:

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Once loaded we headed to Patagonia to unload. Her sewing studio in her new home is shaping up:

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I will admit it took me a bit of time to adjust to the idea of my mother living in a manufactured home. Finally a good friend told me to stop using “manufactured” in a way that sounded pejorative. I realized I was possibly guilty of snobbery. Though I think really I was just having an adverse reaction to the wallpaper circa 1978. Not all the fabric fit in the sewing room so some went in the closet with the wallpaper:

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Moving day is tomorrow. I think after that I should be able to get started on a new art project. Finally.

Thomas R. Aylward: A Reflection One Year Later

This Thursday is the first anniversary of my father’s death. He died on March 26, 2015; he had malignant brain cancer.

In the year after his death, doing anything I liked to do–and liked blogging about–seemed like an alien concept or even a luxury; I was busy helping my mother run the family bakery in Sonoita (Monika’s Home Bakery), help her sell her house and sell the bakery, help her move to Tucson and buy a house, and finally, help her through a December 2014 motor vehicle accident in which she broke her ankle and 5 ribs, a tough trauma to overcome at age 73.

My dad had a seizure several months before he died, which is how he was diagnosed. The first MRI was just a dot in his brain; the second, just 4 weeks later, looked like a hazy donut-shaped cloud with fuzzy clusters.Ā  He had surgery and then a day later had a seizure from which he never regained consciousness. My mom and 4 of my 5 siblings were at the hospice the day he died, but my dad managed to slip away in the one rare moment when no one was paying attention, while my brother John had this Joao Gilberto song playing on his laptop. My dad as many of you know loved to play guitar and played a few Bossa Nova tunes.

Here’s a photo of him with me and my mom at the bakery just a few weeks before he died; I think we all look exhausted, which would be accurate:

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When thinking about his symptoms I’m reminded of Rainer Ptacek, my favorite musician in Tucson when I was 17 but musically precocious enough to appreciate his music and old-enough appearing to get into bars; his sound was quite sophisticated and magical sleepy Tucson in the early 80s. He had seizures and brain cancer too, but he was much younger when he died. You can listen here for a sense of his music, an inspiring sound during difficult times. I guess I have a new and unfortunate knowledge of brain cancer now. I have lots of old Rainer flyers for his shows back in the day and I know they could be used to make a really cool art quilt somehow.

My mom and I are headed out to Organ Pipe National Monument to camp out and have some peaceful time in the desert to reflect on the year gone by. My mom can walk again, and drive. It’s been a long year. It’s going to be good to get back into art-making. Photos of our trip to be posted. I look forward to sharing them with you all.

Holiday Summary Ends with a Quilt

For a lot of people, the time between Christmas and New Year’s is a whirl of family activity; I often opt out of Christmas, it’s just too stressful, but this year I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for the holiday.

Here I am in Madison with my nephews Damien and Sebastian. We’re on top of 18 inches of snow and are about to go sledding. Luckily Sebastian and I wear the same shoe size: I was able to borrow his snow boots!

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After sledding, we returned home where we built snow forts; here’s Damian in the snow fort we built…

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…and here is Sebastian with is friend Cedric in the snow fort they built. They completely demolished me and Damian within minutes, and had us fleeing into the house to escape their arsenal of snow balls.


My brother Frank lives in Madison, he dropped by with his fiancee Leah; here they are with my nephews, Kasia and Benson, the family dog:

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After Christmas, I headed home to Tucson; Frank came out to visit and brought Leah, so she could meet my parents. My sister Roberta, her husband and 20 month old son came down from Portland; my brother John came in from Boston. We had dinner together at the Velvet Elvis in Patagonia, Arizona to celebrate Frank and Leah’s engagement. Too bad Sebastian, Damian and Kasia couldn’t be at dinner– here we all are:

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Robert and Luke then came to spend a few nights with me; IĀ  made a roast chicken dinner and my brother Eric came over to join us:

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Before sunset, Luke joined me and Bearbear for a walk down at the Rillito wash:

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Here’s Luke in my back yard looking like quite the pugilist:

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The best news is that even with all the chaos of family visiting–and with some of the visits being predictably unexpected!–I was STILL able to finish my art quilt and meet the deadline of January 3rd.

This is how it looked hanging on my living room wall shortly before I dropped it off:

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Two Sheets to the Wind

I just got back from a trip to the Boston area where I spent time with my Aunt Mary, who hasn’t been feeling that well. I had this idea that I’d enjoy some brief visits and have a cheerful impact, then maybe read the NY Times, watch some playoff baseball, enjoy the fall foliage and keep it simple…while managing to show up for the daily 5PM cocktail hour.

But Mary said she had a project for me, something a bit more nuanced than digging up perennials in the garden, and it looked like this, an old, damaged model sailboat:

Back when my cousin Michaela passed away in 2009 (read more here), her cats were living in Mary’s home. During their stay, the cats ate the sails on this treasured old model sailboat my paternal grandmother gave to Mary many years ago. Mary got the first boat he made, but eventually, all of my dad’s siblings got a model boat (the one that was in our family was lost years ago). I guess Mary was tired of looking at the shredded sails, and my task, if I accepted it, was to repair them.

And just to be clear, the leftovers were really ripped apart. I couldn’t tell a scrap of sail from rigging. I actually know nothing about model sailboat sail repair.

But I set to work using some imagination and looking at what was left of the original pattern. I used my cousin Megan’s dining room table, her sewing machine and iron; and I picked up supplies–canvas and several hemp twines–at a local fabric shop. I made my own pattern:

Here’s the job sail. You can actually move it around, too:

The main sail was a bit bigger and trickier. I was apply to keep the original waxed twine that was attached to the mast and boom. Here I am trying to get a somewhat straight seam on the main sail:

The whole project turned out much better than I anticipated. It took a while, but apparently I am able to channel my ancestors–when needed–to come up with some basic sailboat design principles.

The boat was well-received: here I am posing with the refurbished boat with my Aunt Mary:

I don’t know if you’d want to try and sail this on a pond anymore. It was once meant to be utilitarian, but I think it’ll need to serve a decorative purpose now….and ideally one with no more cats!

Cochise Stronghold: Turn Back the Clock

I first went to Cochise Stronghold when I was 11….and that was a long time ago.We used to go out there when we visited my grandmother in St. David, Arizona; the (then) public road was right by her home, and from there it was about a half hour drive to the foothills of the Dragoon mountains, where massive piles of boulders make up the stronghold. It’s a very magical place.

I had a chance to revisit the stronghold today. One of my mother’s brothers, Thomas, lives in St. David and is very familiar with the area; the once public road out to the mountains is now private, and has a security code. The layout of the small forest service roads in the mountains is different due to human/drug smuggling that occurs in the area. So having a guide sure helped; also along for the ride was my mom and my brother Eric.

This is a view near Council Rocks:

I immediately remembered “shark rock”:

There are many, many metates in the area. Long before the Apaches lived in the area, ancient Mogollon peoples were a part of the land.

Here’s a great photo of my mom and her brother:

And here’s a shot of me, Eric and my mom:

And here’s another lovely photo of my mom; you can see in the background that the rocks in the background would be a very effective place to hide:

There’s also a ruin of what I believe was once a Butterfield Stagecoach station and inn; there’s even less left now than there was 30 years ago, here’s yet another shot of my sporty mom in front of what’s left of some of the walls:

I got a mug shot in front of the old adobe bricks, too:

It was a great day, not too hot this morning, and a long drive out there and back to Tucson; and when I got home, a huge storm hit, the strongest I think I’ve seen here. I think a microburst hit my neighborhood. Power poles are snapped just a few blocks away but I luckily have power; however, my palo verde tree was uprooted and currently sits at a 45 degree angle in my yard:

This would just be a big tree-removal bill, normally, but the top of the tree is resting against my electric power line. I’m hoping the power company will come out tomorrow and make this situation safer; no doubt I’ll have to pay to remove the tree. While it’s hard to see in the photo, about half of my fence blew down as well; the panels are now propped up so I don’t see the rentals to the north of me.

It’s always amazing to me how the summer skies here can be blue as a bell in the morning…..and then by 5:00PM you can be caught up in a frightening storm.

My friend and neighbor Bruce, who has a reliable rain gauge,Ā  told me we got 2.25 inches of rain in less than an hour today. Wow. Just 2 miles away, 3.65 inches in an hour was reported on the news.

Believe me, 2.25 inches is more than enough.

My Latest Boston Trip

I just got home today from a great trip to Boston; my first day there, my second cousin Katy Miles very kindly hosted a get-together at her home in Dorchester where I could see my cousins. I had a chance to meet up once again with folks whom you’d think I’d feel distantly related to…but don’t. It’s not that I know anyone really well;Ā  it’s just funny to me that our shared Newfoundland gene pool seems to have a small selection of commonly replicated traits which we share. Nuttiness being chief among them. In the above photo–aside from me, my lovely aunt Mary and my brother John–there are by my counting 8 O’Neil and Tranford second cousins and some of their partners and spouses.

I had a really nice time at an afternoon game at Fenway Park. Here I am with my brother John. Despite all the scratching of body parts, spitting, prima donna behavior by players and absurdly high ticket prices, I like the actual game of baseball.

I know my Aunt Mary feels she is not nearly as photogenic as she was in her youth (who is?) but agism is a terrible problem in our culture, and I think this photo shows engagement with life and joy in good company makes everyone–regardless of age–great material for a photo:

I didn’t do any real gardening chores this time around. I just transplanted a hydrangea….

…and some echinacea…

I was constantly amused by the wild turkeys dining at the backyard bird feeder. I’m so glad I don’t have that birdseed bill!

The 3 hour time difference is catching up with me so that’s all for now!

End of a the Whirlwind Visit

This is the yummy lasagna I made with Sebastian last week. He told me not to post any of the photos I took of him as we put this together. The kale and carrots are from my garden.

Luckily, there were no similar restrictions for our trip the following day to Sonoita, where we spent Easter weekend with my parents. I was going to post all of this earlier but I had a 2 day migraine that set me behind. Plus, I felt sad that my visitors had to leave to go home!

Anyway, as for the last few days of my visit with Kasia and the kids….there were battles with carrots…

…and sticks. I still have sore knuckles!

This is a nice photo of me, my mom and Kasia:

My dad read a fairy tale–The Tinderbox–aloud after dinner; I saw Sebastian’s eyeballs roll once, briefly, but he really got into it. That’s a good story.

Damian read aloud himself, when his mother told him he had to read a book before bedtime he took it upon himself to share. For a kid nearly 7 he reads well above his grade level. Sebastian, in the back, is always reading:

The next day we went to St. David, on Easter, to have lunch with my mom’s 2 brothers. This is a greenhouse where my Uncle Christopher grows vegetables; he also has a swimming pool and here you can see what a good sport I am, to hop in the pool with the boys and get clobbered.

Here they are in front of the chapel which my grandfather built at the Holy Trinity Monastery:

Here’s all of us, except Kasia, who took the photo:

And, finally, isn’t this the cutest photo?

Grand Canyon Whirlwind Trip

With my nephews and ex-sister-in-law along for the ride, I recently completed a 38 hour trip from Tucson to the Grand Canyon!

We started at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday and stayed on the interstates to make good time, but took scenic 89A through Sedona to Slide Rock State Park for a more leisurely pace and a lunch stop:

The state park is famous for it’s super popular swimming hole. We had a lunch of fresh fruit, bread, cold cuts, potato salad on a picnic table under an apple tree about to bloom;Ā  the parkĀ  is located on an old homestead with an apple orchard. One of the trees is a century old, which is quite remarkable in this state:

Unfortunately, it looks like bark beetles have gotten to it:

Highway 89A climbs out of Oak Creek Canyon (what you see in the distance, below) …..

…and ends in Flagstaff. We spent the night in Williams, Arizona, just west of Flagstaff; and the next morning we took the tourist train–the Grand Canyon Railway–for a day trip to the Grand Canyon. The train has goofy tourist stuff like folks in cowboy costume playing bad music for tips; they walk up and down the carriage cars. It’s perfect for those who have a) little time and b) small children and c) a budget.

Obviously, the Grand Canyon is an archetypal image of not just the American West, but of what we think constitutes an awe-inspiring natural landscape. So, in short, there are plenty of photos out there of the Grand Canyon and most folks can readily call an image (albeit a likely weak and inadequate one) to mind.

This can help jog your memory, or improve your mental stock photos:

I was impressed that on a very busy day–we were there during peak Spring Break traffic, which several park service employees told me rivaled peak summer traffic–we could walk a few milesĀ  along the 14 mile Rim Trail and easily find many spots where we easily couldĀ  sit down, undisturbed, and quietly watch the enormous panorama before us:

This a great shot of my nephew Sebastian, not just because it’s the Grand Canyon, but because he’s a teenager….and he’s smiling!

This morning we were all in a just a minor state of recovery from getting home late. My mom and my brother Eric came by today for lunch; here we all are, it’s so much fun to eat and talk together!

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon before and am already looking forward to my next trip. What a blast!

Family Eats

My sister Roberta and her husband Greg and almost 2 year old son Luke were in Sonoita this weekend, visiting from Portland OR, and they stopped by my house today for a late lunch; my mom’s brother Thomas, his wife Anne and their son John Paul came over, too, as did my brother Eric.

So of course I spent most of last night and this morning baking and childproofing the house!

Here’s Luke and Bearbear:

This is a great shot of Eric and Bert:

I’m always happy to put aside what I’m working on and put together a meal for family; bringing folks together to talk and share food is generally a worthwhile endeavor. Here’s to the next yummy meal!