Friday, July 3, 2015

Never Say Never

. . . 'cause you never know. Like today. Yesterday I said there was no mail in my holiday agenda. I was determined to have a different kind of long weekend. Then I saw this. It reminded me of fireworks. It never blooms like this unless there's a lot of rain. Lately, rain reminds me of Pamela, which leads to thoughts of mail art; mail art leads to letters. So, while JC mowed, I scurried upstairs to dash off a quick thank-you note, but not until after I wrote a two page letter to go with. 

Now, these were taken on the same day as the flowers, so how can I not show off my muscadine bounty too? They're ripening early in a myriad of shades of juiciness. 

See? You can also see signs that they've had too much rain. They need the sun. I'm not complaining. Predicted temps for tomorrow are 105 degrees in Houston. 

The fig tree isn't complaining. The golden fig's leaves behind us in our neighbor's yard are yellowed, the fruit is stunted, and so far there's only a single ripe orb in need of eating. Our ripe figs are exploding; even the birds cannot keep up with the numbers presenting themselves as gifts. The only drawback is the fruit isn't fully ripe. As in, the color purple on both sides doesn't match. They're honey-sweet though, and one giant fig wrapped in a slice of smoked provolone makes them sweeter and leave you craving more. Yum!

And then there was mail with greens matching the greening that's come from all the rain. I tried counting the different washi tapes used to decorate this gem . . . Eleven? Eight? Nine! The envelope is lime green, boasting lyrical handwriting that has a positive swing! 

A green scalloped note card.

And a great big heart to seal the deal! Don't ask me why I photographed the envelope upside down. (sigh) Very pretty, JarieLyn. Thank you. Very much. 

I finally mixed and used the "primo aged" walnut ink I've mentioned before. . It's so old the wax seal had broken. The granules were in mint condition, and smell of iron. So, is there iron in walnut ink? And why didn't someone tell me iron gall ink eats nibs? For every gain there seems to be a loss. Perhaps it's meant to be used with quills and not metal? I have to replace a handful of new nibs!

I used distilled water to mix my pretty writing potion. It's supposed to reduce mold. Look at the face. Faces? I see two faces and a cat in silhouette! Tell me you do too.

A third of the granules made this much ink. Should I try it with gum arabic? 

The color seems to ripen with use. It's prettier than it appears here, and it seems to have been made for Crane stationery! The brown ink is so-o-o rich, and it dries quickly unless you overload your nib. These stamps felt like the perfect accents to an envelope I thoroughly enjoyed addressing as much as I enjoyed writing my first full letter written in calligraphy! The art form adds oomph to any envelope. I hope you'll give it a try.

For now, simply sing along with me!

People all over the world, 
Join pens
Start a calligraphy train, a calligraphy train

The next stop that we make will be soon
Tell all the folks in Russia and China too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on writing, writing on through
People all over the world join in

Well, well, people all over the world
You don't need no money
Join pens, come on
Start a calligraphy train, calligraphy train
Don't need no ticket, come on!
People all over the world, join in, ride this train

All of you brothers and sisters over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt and Israel too
Please don't miss this train at the station
'Cause if you do I feel sorry, sorry for you

Well, people all over the world, join hands
Start a calligraphy train, ride this train y'all!
And write. Let us write. Let us wri-i-ite . . . 

And, in a voice-over that sounds like Barry White:  Write on.

P.S.  Texas Philosophy #2: Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On Being Mindful

The being mindful movement is still in full swing. It pulled up a chair at the dinner table and it's made itself at home. It seems to be everywhere I go. It tags along on a walk-around in the back yard; it's with me when I vacuum--reminding me that I won't drag the vacuum back over my toes if I'm mindful of what I'm doing; I'm more mindful of people I pass and  interact with when I go out. This being mindful can be a full-time job if I pay attention, but no matter how mindful I think I'm being I still fall short of being fully aware. I forget things. As we age surely our lists of stuff that needs remembering or recalled reaches a tipping point, and in as a way to not stress over it, we find comfort in using words and phrases such as "whatever, what-cha-may-call it, thingamajig, thingamabob," and my current favorite, "disremember," as in "I disremember her being there." 

My desktop dictionary defines mindful this way:
mindful |ˈmīndfəladjective [ predic. ] conscious or aware of something: we can be more mindful ofthe energy we use to heat our homes.DERIVATIVESmindfully adverb
It's simply paying attention. I think it using it in bold face became more exotic as part of a movement to revitalize a word we've become so familiar with that we've lost its initial meaning and  value. Like the word beautiful. We've over-used, misused, and it abused it to the point that it has lost almost all of its own sweetness and special power. I don't love my clogs. I do love my cats. I don't love writing letters. I derive great pleasure from writing letters. I've never been fully mindful. Who has? In order to, I'd have to be super conscious of everything and everyone everyday. I love unexpected moments of mindfulness as much as I do the consciously mindful ones. Don't you? And recent exceptional moments of mindfulness occurred yesterday when I sat in the car reading those precious letters so fresh from my post office box. I'm still savoring how good that felt.
It rained again today. I was especially mindful of how tires on the cars in front of me splashed water over the curbs; it arced as gracefully as a ballerina's tutu when she bends to touch the floor. You know how that froth of tulle looks so pretty . . . Better yet, it reminded me of stomping puddles to make the water splash as high as little my girl feet could. In no time at all I was back to yellow galoshes and being carefree in the rain. My parents had the time and the mindfulness to allow their children to play in the rain before our lives became too full of don't, shouldn't and you might catch cold
All the rain we're getting always reminds me in the lack in places like California. I relished the drops that fell on my head today. Yes, I had an umbrella, and brown sugar melts faster, but I enjoyed being pelted just hard enough to make me grin. For the moments it took to walk across the parking lot to the car I was extremely mindful of the needs of others for this simple act of nature. An hour later I listened to a young cashier  talk about Cuba, the decades long sanctions, and how he's going there first chance he gets. Talk of foreign travel led to postcards when I told him how happy I was when I got my first one from Cuba. I thought he was joking when he said, "Oh, we have postcards here! My friend, who travels a lot said she always buys postcards when she goes on vacation . . . We have racks of them behind you." I felt so sorry for him. I explained; he got what they were with a "Ooh. They're the ones without envelopes!" Said postcards were in his future. I made a convert! 
Listening is about being consciously aware. So is letter-writing. It's one of the most mindful things a person can do. I'm fully engaged when I put pen to paper and leave behind words that communicate my thoughts and feelings. I believe that's why we write when we "can." Can means when we're able to give our full attention to the pleasure at hand. I re-read the special three-page letter from yesterday this evening. It was just as special as if we were talking in my living room. Intimate! That's the word I was searching for. Intimate.
intimate 1 |ˈintəmitadjectiveclosely acquainted; familiar, close: intimate friends | they are on intimate terms.• (of a place or setting) having or creating an informal friendly atmosphere: an intimate little Italian restaurant.• predic. ] used euphemistically to indicate that a couple is having a sexual relationship: he was sickened by the thought of others having been intimate withher.• involving very close connection: their intimate involvement with their community.private and personal:
Reading it felt like the penned reply went beyond being a social obligation in response to my initial letter. I'm sure you've had such moments too, so yes, you know what I mean. And there's yesterdays letter that left me laughing out loud, talking to myself, and feeling great about having pen friends. If I could, I'd take all of you out to dinner at my favorite restaurant! No. First, I'd like to have dinner alone with you first. Then I'd know who should sit next to whom. We'd eat, drink and talk 'til our gizzards got sore. We'd forget about being mindful, or not, and simply be. Wait. Isn't that what living is all about? Simply being? Well, to quote Charles Barkley, "I may be wrong but I doubt it."
Now, moving on to what's on my desk . . . I found a fun postcard that has 10 Texan philosophies listed. I bought 10. All there were. I'll share one each day, and randomly send one a day. Here we go:
1)  Never slap a man/woman who's chewing' tobacco. (I added the woman bit, and yes, I knew women who chewed.) 
Here's a lovely link from the Strathmore Newsletter I subscribe to. Writing. Why? Because . . . Well, read on and you'll understand, but I recommend it because we like paper, and Strathmore's into stationery. More and more companies are aware of our community and it feels good. Letter writers matter!

Flashback! A pad from a box packed over 11 years ago. I was desperate back then. I had a single pen pal. A Japanese businessman. We were pen pals for years. This pad is leftover from our time together because I didn't like the paper. I put it away but could not bring myself to toss it. So I packed it when we moved here, and here it is again. Laid paper used to make me grit my teeth. Not any more. I used a sheet this afternoon and let me say . . . Try it with a dip pen and iron gall ink! There's no bleed, no need to be mindful of trying not to write uphill, and the paper just plain feels good. 

Another visit to Texas Art Supply garnered this gem of a tool that's meant to help me with pencil lines and proper spacing on envelopes. No, I haven't tried it yet, so fingers crossed.

I haven't used one of these since art school. I need all the help I can get.

The first image reminds me of a fingernail moon. Yep. I bought new ink.

Banana? No. Ba-nan-ah! And bronze. Beauties, both. You should see! And experience the joy that comes from lightly running your fingertips atop the dry words. Don't close your eyes and do it. Ooh la!

And . . . ba boom! Another teaching-myself aid. I am going to be so smart! Just you wait and see, uh huh.

An old favorite that still plays well with letter-writing. 

More of my favorite state stamps. Part of another upcoming mission. (grin)

See? More proof that the world is becoming aware of us. I missed another birthday. Hopefully this will make up for my lapse, not that I've been in the habit of sending this lovely person birthday greetings, but still . . . 

And . . . another postcard! Forty-seven or so to go. Thank you, Dodson, D.! Now I simply need to find my map of the US, buy more push pins, and I'll be mapping my receipts. 

Write a little letter and make someone a stranger feel better! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inky Dinky Do

Old World Iron Gall Ink is my favorite for dip pens. So far. I say that because I have yet to try my tiny bottle of 7gypsies walnut ink, and I don't recall where I put the ink I made from iron gall powder a year ago. I mixed the entire package with distilled water, sealed it tight and forgot about it. I'm pretty sure it will show up soon enough.

While I do like the two Aladine's IZINK Calli & Co. colors I've tried, tourmaline and old gold, they come in second to Old World. Sorry for the glare. I seem to take photographs at the worst time of day, namely late night or early evening. Maybe I should write posts in the mornings? But, if I sit for this in the mornings I get very little else done. 

Enlargement is my friend! It shows my weaknesses and strengths aka where I need to still improve. Ink choices help. So. Although the tourmaline is thin enough it still starts out dark and tapers to light. It's time to hit the books and pore over The Postman's Knock to seek answers. I don't have the same problem with the iron gall. Note the differences between the two words penned with Aladine's ink versus Old World's. Sorry about the unearned practice lines. I'm working on form and consistency before consistent height for lower case letters. I also practice without my glasses ninety-nine percent of the time. I'm not sure why, but I do sit at my desk when I practice, except before bedtime. I liken it to practicing the piano before sleeping because I believe the notes will be the last things I think on before I visit the land of Nod, and they will play themselves over and over and right themselves as they go along without help from me. Then the memories will transfer themselves from my brain, along my nerves, and into my fingers when I wake. Ha! Dream on, huh? If I could write the perfect letters, connect them in a harmonious fashion, make perfect dots, dashes and flourishes, I'd be a machine! (sigh) I have to keep trying while I'm still interested since I tend to lose steam mid-stream on most projects. The same old question always gets my goat: What's the point? Hmm. An image just flashed across the sky of my mind. Imagine being the first human to take a stick and poke it in the sand. Another human standing next to you looks at the mark you've just made, erases it with a foot, and asks, "What's the point?" The first human looks at the second human and says, "That's exactly my point." 

Or . . . Does the first human make a new mark in the sand and answer in return, "That's my point."?

Inky dinky do! Old World iron gall ink, I like you.

Shot taken through the passenger side window. 

A side view.

A direct view. 

I'm not sure if I like the rain drops more than the car. 

Mail! Lots of mail. Collected after I mailed a package, a letter, and postcards. All in all? A good swap. I'm going in with a bottle of cleanser, a toothbrush, and a cleaning rag one of these days! 

I sat in the car and read all the great letters in a leisurely fashion, thinking I'd out-sit the rain. It eventually slackened, so I ran more errands: 1) a trip to Aaron Bro. ISO The General's cork nib pen (no luck), 2) picked up two prescriptions, 3) bought seaweed salad, bread, and . . . other food necessaries. I discovered another letter an hour ago! Unread! What a lovely way to end the day. Thank you!

Sling some ink! Put it in an envelope. Slap on a stamp and let it go! M-a-a-ke some happier!

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Due Date Is Closer!

Another mission: Illumination. The bags from Barnes & Noble either mock or encourage,  depending on how I feel on any given day. Isn't this lovely? It looks so simple.

Another lovely sample on the opposite side of their bag. Romeo doesn't need much embellishing, does he? Wouldn't this be beautiful on an envelope? Granted it would be a labor of love/friendship to put so much effort in a piece of paper that might get tossed, but creating such a masterpiece would be worth the time and artistry required, don't you think? I'll discover how it feels this summer, after I finish the secret piece I'm working on. 

I like the feel of control that comes from practicing on 80# drawing paper, especially with crimson on cream. My arm ached just a little by the time I'd switched to this paper, but I could not sleep until I'd used almost an entire sheet I've cut into manageable sizes. My shoulder protested, hence the noticeable tremors. No, it wasn't about "no pain no gain." It was more akin to trying to grasp an illusive fairy, or an idea, and wrest it into reality.

I kept telling myself I could do it. Just one more try! But I kept holding my breath! The longer I held it the more my sore arm trembled! The more I hurt the larger the words became. I must practice breathing tonight.

After awhile I couldn't connect the f to that g to save my life. You'd think I had enough sense to stop then, yes?

Red saris! And robins. Moses? 

I enlarge my mistakes the better to see them, my dears. I've ruined two nibs already. One fell and embedded itself in a rug. I ruined the second when I tried to pull it from the pen. It's easier to pull the pen from the nib. Live and learn.

I bought this over ten years ago. It's perfect for practice and less expensive than the lovely Rhodia. It's almost as good as Rhoda too. Who knew? It loves ink. The surface is about as good as it gets too. It's on my list of calligraphy necessaries now. 

My suffering paid off. No, it isn't perfect, but it's perfect for the amount of time I've put into practicing. And I figured the best way to overcome my fear of messing up, and to clear up my doubts about my level of improvement . . . was to simply do it. And I did. I sacrificed a red envelope to conquer my trepidation. And, guess what. I'm okay. I am much closer to my due date than I'd imagined. 

Write on, write on!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Great Expectations: A Red Letter Day

I loved yesterday's storm. There's one tonight. Somewhere close. I hear the thunder as clear as day. I wish it would rain again. It's night. Yesterday, Alex and his oldest sister were in the pool during that storm. I thought their mom would get them inside, but she wasn't home; I didn't see the van when I checked. So I grab a white shirt off the hanger in the laundry room, covered my head, opened the doors and make a dash for the fence, shouting "Fatima? Fatima? Y'all need to go inside! It's dangerous to be in the pool! You could get struck by lightning!" Someone, not Fatima answered in a confused voice, "Okay." but I could see through the fence slats that they weren't moving--but were looking around like they were hearing spirits they couldn't see instead. I had to do a repeat! Alex never said a word, he just crouched in the pool! Surely someone has taught them that thunder and lightning go hand in hand? But then again, he and his dad sought shelter beneath a live oak once.

Rain is a perfect white noise for writing. No, not just "It was a dark and stormy night" kind of writing. I'm including letters, and writing-words-for-practice kind of writing. Ah! There goes the thunder again! I'll know that it's near if we lose power or satellite. Too often it'll storm a few blocks away while everywhere else is powder-dry. 

Here I am, showing off again. Vain me. I don't mind showing the good, bad, and ugly as long as I'm improving. Since I am on a mission.

I am. I know, I know . . . Keep practicing.

Practice . . . with a red as red as lacquer! Or crimson. 

. . . to be continued.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

I'm Expecting . . .

I ate my first fig of the season today. Filled with great expectations, I've kept an eye out for  signs of ripening for over a week now. The early birds beat me to the first fruit! They beat me to the muscadines too! My clue? Purple grape skins on the patio! I wish you could see the crepe myrtles! Branches bowing under the weight of the fisted buds and blooms are something to see. And, the green grapes are almost gone. They're the same color as their leaves, meaning they hide in plain sight, so you need to keep careful watch to beat your competition for the first fruits. The same goes with telling the difference between sepia and bronze. I declared I had a bottle of bronze calligrapher's ink in the other post when I didn't. I expected it to be, since it was in the space marked "bronze." Okay, I  blame Texas Art Supply for this one, but I still expect great things from the pretty rainbow palette-sepia in the middle.  Expect colorful envelopes from me this summer. 

This is sepia. It's also me showing off how much I've improved in less than a week of diligent practice. The ink almost looks black doesn't it? Stumped-I-was until the good Lindsey, over at unstumped me without me having to ask how come. She thinks of everything! It's the gum arabic that causes the deepening, but I like it, and the sheen. And I like learning something new when I'm learning how to do something new.

I expected this to look better than it does in this weak shot, yet I'm just as proud as if it's perfect. See? I'm getting better, aren't I? It's fun using pens and nibs I've had over a decade. 

When I bought small butcher trays the first few times I expected they'd be put to use holding pastels. Smaller trays were for watercolor. I never expected they'd have a whole other use. This little guy protects and serves. No more drips on quilts and clothes! Things don't roll! And cleaning up is a cinch. Swipe, rinse, and wipe!

New and old kids on the block. Do you use them? Are they to your liking?

Her Nibs, that's myself, has nibs tucked away in unusual places too, like Altoids and Newman's Own Organics mints tins. See? I knew I was hoarding saving them for a reason! A butcher's tray with the necessaries make life easier. Ready? Set? Oops! Where's the water?!? Distilled for me.

Red stationery covered in ink, sealed, and cast on the postal sea, travels like red sails in a sunset. Better yet, I believe that if I cast my letters across the waters, I will receive letters in return. Or so I expect. I'll know for sure soon enough. 

. . . to be continued.