Monday, September 21, 2015

Cabin Creekwood Escape

Yes, I disappeared and ran away again after my last post; I was in central VA from September 8 until yesterday, the 20th. No computer, no phones, no texts, no connectivity at all. Just mountains and lakes and creeks and hiking trails. 
Primitive American art. Depicting sheep.
I figured I might be in the right place ("Cabin Barnwood") when I saw the art in the entry. Then I saw the bedroom (which was lovely, but the bed was so high that short-legged me had to jump into it every night, it was rather funny…I think I need to recommend they add a step stool to the room.

Bedroom…the window frame's not low.
The bed's really, really tall!
But it was a lovely one bedroom cabin; it had a living room area with a futon, armchair, end tables, and wood stove guests were encouraged to use at will; a full kitchen with microwave, coffee maker, full sized fridge, and so on (I brought pots and kashered the appliances); and a dining area too. There were two patios, one overlooking the creek and woody area, the other right outside the main entrance, that area having a patio table and chairs which were pristinely clean and lovely to sit at for meals, reading, and crafting. There was a fire pit area with adirondack chairs, also comfortable (though the first time I tried to get a fire going, it was after two days of pouring rain, so the best I could manage was a multi-hour "camp smolder" rather than "camp fire;" still, it lit and stayed lit). There was even a nice bench creekside where I could read or just sit and listen to the creek.
Said creek
I was a straight shot down the road from public Sherando Lake Park, operated by the National Park Service, so I spent several days there. Since it's out of season, post-Labor Day, payment was on honor system at various scattered payment booths, but that worked fine. I sat at the lake beach, which was delightful; and I walked and hiked. I hiked up one trail that essentially seemed a direct vertical line. After 25 minutes I turned around and went down.
It doesn't look as steep as it
was. But trust me. It was steep!
For one thing it was just going to keep going up, and up, and up, and for another it was predicted to begin raining that day and I knew that if it rained there was no way on earth I could possibly get down that trail except on my butt, it was the perfect flash flood spot that couldn't possibly be safely descended on foot in wet conditions. Plus I was worn out and my out-of-shape legs had had it.

Still I bravely set out a few days later on another trek uphill. This time I went up a different trail to the Lookout Rock spot, about 3/4 mile straight up hill again. I wound up having to stop every 30 paces or so to catch my breath. I imagined abashedly other hikers appearing just nonchalantly walking straight up, finding me red-faced, huffing and puffing, but fortunately I had the side of the mountain to myself the whole time. And I did reach the lookout point, and I did get a beautiful view of the lake area from above.
The view from the rock. I don't know where the other pictures went
but I did get photos of the lake from above too.

No other hikers on the trails, but these
adorable little 3" lizards were everywhere
near the summit running all over the
rocks. I got photos of several different ones
but I figured I'd just share one because
once you've seen on badly taken photo
of a little lizard, you've probably seen
all you need to see.

I have some photos also of the view from below at the beach level. It was really delightful, they truck in sand so it was nice and sandy, children had made a big pyramid sand castle one day; but because it's also the same lake stocked for boating and fishing, there are little minnows and larger fish swimming around everywhere, much more so than at other lake or ocean beaches I've ever been at. The water was clean and had no smell (which was a relief), the swimming area had no algae and the water is tested regularly, there were benches provided but people brought in their own beach or camp chairs to bring down farther on the beach. One older gentleman was having a good time one day with a fishing net, just seeing what he could occasionally scoop up and have a look at in the net and show his wife; he was waist deep, she was just dipping in her toes, but looking into the net to see what he'd found each time he had something new.
The green color is just the reflections of the sand and trees;
the water was clear and blue.

Lookout rock is 9/10 of the way up this mountainside, 1/4
of the way from the left. But it's just too small to show up in
this photo. Still, I'm impressed with myself I got up there.

The really impressive part of my having done all the hiking is that in my own personally impressive way, I broke two toes the first few days I was there. Not by doing anything strenuous, I just had a tiny slip on a rock at the cabin, slipped maybe 2", but my toes curled under at just the wrong angle. Between the broken toes, the gout in the big toe on the same foot, and the pain I usually have in my other leg, plus the fact that with my shoulder injury I have to keep a sling on to do much walking and I sprained that shoulder catching myself when I slipped and broke the toes, I give myself many extra brownie points for even venturing outdoors the rest of the trip, which in fact is when I did the most hiking. I didn't make it to the Appalachian trail, sadly, which is right there on site too, because that seemed absurd with the injuries, but I hope to be able to return to this lovely spot and go on the AT then.

I did take one other field trip, which is particularly impressive for depressed, introverted, easily-scared and anxious me, to the town of Grottoes about 35 minutes from the cabin, where there is a fabulous cavern with full one-hour tour. It's as wonderful as Luray or any of the commercial ones, but it's operated by the local municipal park service as a public park, so it's entirely non-commercial. The tour cost $15 with a AAA discount (the ticket seller asked whether I had membership in that or several other organizations, I didn't even think to ask), for the complete tour with a well-trained guide. The caverns have everything you can imagine and in fact are known for their rare shield formations, not found in most caverns and still not well understood by geologists. These caverns have been continuously toured and open for over 200 years, and there are many signatures of Civil War soldiers (from the ages when defacing such places was normal), as well as stories and depictions in the museum area of Civil War soldiers discussing the caverns and their visits. 

But the highlight of the whole trip was this, the flowers my husband sent me before the first Shabbos there to sweeten my Shabbos and send his love.

Monday, September 7, 2015


At this age he couldn't eat, but he could feel included in Judaism all the same.
I had a meeting this morning to discuss inclusion of children with special needs within the synagogue community and children's groups this morning, with our wonderful new youth director Carmiya. She's preparing for the major Jewish fall holidays, when youth groups are full and prayer services are long. While I hadn't consciously prepared much thought (we had only decided late last night to have this brief meeting), as we talked I realized that most of what I was saying about inclusion both in generalities and specifics boiled down to one word.


Listen to the parents who come and tell you their child needs a one-on-one who is really aware of the potential for elopement. Listen to the parents' concerns about the suitability of activities for their child. Listen to the parents' explanations of negative dynamics between specific children. Few parents in real life in most places are seeing their children as special snowflakes. Most just want safety and happiness for their children.

Listen to the children when they come to you. If they report problems with adults who don't understand the limitations or problems the individual children face; if they report problems interacting with other children. Children don't usually come to adults with made-up concerns; if they report a problem, it's usually because they are experiencing a problem within their perception.

Listen to the children when they are among themselves. Be alert for bullying, for isolation, for negativity. At the same time, you may be lucky enough to merit observing a real miracle of children accepting each other no matter what limitations each has.

Inclusion can mean making sure the doors are open to those with physical difficulties yet closed to those who might endanger themselves by leaving without supervision. It can mean making prayer materials available in multiple media and leading prayer in different ways. Sometimes though, inclusion means opening our ears and our minds and thoughts. Just listen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elul Challah

It's the Hebrew month of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah. Most of the year we eat braided challah bread on Shabbos and holidays. For the holidays mentioned above of the month of Tishrei, we often use round challahs formed in a spiral. So logically (not) in Elul I like to make braided round challahs. 
First I divide each challah's dough into four sections,
rolle them into snakes, and do this center cross-over

Next I do the next-most-outer cross-overs,
starting with any pair, going around consistently
in a circle crossing one snake over it's paired neighbor

See, I've now crossed the left snakes and the top snakes

After that, I cross the snakes to their neighbors, continuing
the weave pattern. At this point it's messy but you'll see that
it doesn't matter because the messy part gets tucked underneath.

I've tucked the mess underneath and made nice tall round braided loaves.

And now they're cooling, along with pumpkin bread, and brownies are in the oven.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I really tried

My doctor had two alternative suggestions: either hospitalization or as long as possible a solo vacation. Needless to say I picked trying the getaway first. I'm not so fond of full nor partial hospitalization, thank you very much. I did a little digging and found a listing for a place up outside of Gettysburg, just inside the MD state line (I tried to keep track of the Confederate flags and frankly it was pretty much a toss-up between the two sides of the Mason-Dixon line right there). I booked, I went up and it seemed lovely.

On a private family farm, hundreds of acres owned by one person, a whole floor of a separate farmhouse with private kitchen, dining area, meditation room, bedroom, full bathroom, and enclosed porch.

First though I found out I was really lost at what I was doing there. I tried breaking up my time with a very little bit of shopping and sightseeing (I did go to the Utz outlet in Hanover to bring back treats for the family to thank them for seeing me through all of this and especially seeing me go and not complaining about it). I took a lot of walks, around the fields, through the paths, around the pond, amidst all the great dye plants (couldn't turn that part of my brain off, apparently). All sorts of pretty, calming things. And I figured I'd do some crafting while I had peace, especially seeing it as an opportunity to focus on a really fiendish-to-learn-until-you-get-it-down weave known as Jens Pind Linkage, and then a multi-media piece that had been bouncing around in my head for weeks.
JPL bracelet, at last after many previous attempts

Pure copper rings, sterling silver rings, metal seed beads,
Swarovski crystals,  glass seed beads, and base metal findings
Then I realized I was getting nowhere healing-wise. Not physically, not mentally. My shoulder hurt worse than ever, and I wasn't feeling more whole even after journaling 50 pages in my newly bought journal.  So I switched to no planning, no crafting, no accomplishing. No product-driven thinking. Process-only. I did a little coloring, which is well outside of my comfort area. But I went ahead with it. I even told myself it was okay not to plan it, not to make rules for myself while coloring either. I wasn't so good at that, at letting go of conscious control, and allowing myself freedom to not think and not plan and to ground myself in a more meditative or open ended mental state. I really just couldn't do it. But I did do the coloring and made the effort.
And then everything just crashed down on top of me once and for all and I just felt more physically and mentally ill than when I arrived, because I realized that the bites I was getting in lines on my arms, legs, torso, everywhere, were bed bug bites. I hadn't noticed the first few nights.
Of course I hadn't because I had never encountered bed bugs before and so my body hadn't developed an immune response allergy yet. After a few nights though, I was waking up each morning with more. This morning I realized and confirmed what I was thinking was in fact right, and what could I do but quickly do all my laundry in as hot water as available and leave as soon as possible? I've done everything I can to avoid having introduced them to the house. I'll be even more sick if my efforts weren't enough. I just don't know what to do now. Hospitalization isn't high on my list of what to try next. But with school coming up for the kids, and the holidays in just a few weeks running for a full month, going away again isn't possible. I'm so very lost in myself.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

From the past, a hedgehog returns

I've posted several embroideries from this last year, ones I'm submitting to the county fair (and thanks again, Alicia for picking them up to take them in for me). Here's one I thought I'd share that I believe pre-dates my blogging, so it's just never been posted anywhere. The pattern is completely original, it was an attempt to begin teaching myself thread painting. The scale turned out to be slightly too small for that really, but the various stitches and the hedgehog came out very well and I'm quite happy with it.  One day we just have to hang it up on the wall. This was done so long ago I was comfortable working all sorts of stitches for the various flowers, I'm not even sure today exactly how each one was worked.
It's actually all framed and ready to hang and everything. I just have had it sitting doing nothing for years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Almost as set as I'm going to get

This is my follow-up to yesterday's preliminary post about county fair entries. I do have my two last embroidery pieces ready to go now, in the sense of all stitch work and finishing completed.
This black work Tudor rose is the piece I used to teach
myself black work; somehow I had never tried it before.
It's set in the top of a wooden box.

This reads, "Wisdom is better than strength," a quote from
Ecclesiastes.  Chochma, wisdom, was considered the feminine
form of the divine in Judaism before the destruction of the first
Temple; it was not just thought of as a female aspect of G-d but
was actually worshipped in its own right as much as the male
nature. After the Babylonian exile and exposure of the leaders to
goddess worship in other nations, on return to rebuild the Temple
the religious leaders of the nation suppressed the goddess cults
and with them the acceptance of worshipping a feminine concept.

Now I just have to get paperwork filled out and cards written up explaining all of this. I hope that's gentler on my shoulder than the hemming has been.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Almost that time of year in the US...

If you live in almost any part of the United States, it's already or almost county fair time. Our fair has one of the largest in the state (I think it's the largest, but I'm not 100% sure).

Most years I have entered a number of items in the Home Arts competition, in the knitting, spinning, and occasionally weaving categories. Since I really haven't done any knitting, spinning, or weaving to speak of since last year I don't have much.  I have three pieces totally ready to go, all in embroidery of one kind or another…I have to figure out a whole new areas of categories.
Embroidered triptych of a bee, a dragonfly, and a butterfly
in matching saffron floss on black linen

A Rosh Hashanah challah (bread) cover; the center says "A good
and sweet year;" the outer area has pictures of the different
foods we eat as "simanim," symbols of peace, plenty, well-being,
and success, and the partial texts we say with each of those foods..
As of tonight, it's finally edged and lined and pressed and finished.

A tiny (about 4") blackwork piece of a geometric web with a
tiny spider in the top right corner.

I do have one more blackwork piece finished in terms of embroidery. The question is whether I'll get it hemmed or not. At least I'm happy with these, I have something to enter, and if I don't win anything, it's fine, this is the first year I'm entering any of these areas.