Sunday, 25 May 2008

Good Vibes

My laundry room has two walls, a roof and lots of fresh air. And, oh yes, I have a washing machine. I also have laundry trays which I use for handwash, for setting the twist in handspun yarns and for rinsing dyed batches of yarn. Since we depend on solar power for electricity, we decided we wouldn't have a clothes dryer and our weather makes that no problem. I hang wet laundry on lines strung under the covered area to prevent fading and disintegration of fabric, especially elastic, caused by the tropical sun when I forget and leave laundry hanging for hours (or days) on an outside clothesline. I do use the outside line when I want to give something a good blast of sunshine and fresh air.

I found this insect on the outside clothesline. Extravagant, hey?

After viewing those antennae, I feel less inclined to regard my handspun yarn as extreme personal indulgence. I have to say, my handspun yarn looks pretty ordinary compared to that insect. I hope those antennae bring that creature as many good vibes as my hours of handspinning bring me.

I obtained a sample pack of Dreamee Wool Tops (naturally coloured Melanian sheep) from Bilby Yarns in West Australia and began spinning for a ply study in Ravelry (online knitting community that includes crocheters, spinners, weavers, dyers, etc). My first set of samples are based on a finely spun single that is plied at three different twist rates, then washed, given a few whacks against the washing machine and hung to dry.

Part of me feels fascinated by this systematic research, another part of me feels impatient to spin and ply my usual way (I call it the "rut") and get on to making something with the yarn. But the research will help me decide how the yarn wants to be used, especially after I knit or weave small samples with it. The scientist-me bargains with the maker-me. The maker-me got to cast on another pair of socks, as "making something" feels so good. And the scientist-me continues to work on the plying study, as "learning" feels so good.

I expect the two me's to integrate when I manage to produce a handspun yarn suitable for handknit socks. In the meantime, we do feel good.

M in JaM (pix by J)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Blown Away

As a child when visiting my grandfather's home in Oklahoma, I often heard about the town that blew away. Elders would vaguely point to the southeast and tell me that Council Hill used to be out there and blew away in a tornado. It was just one of many stories I remember from that time in the 1950's. I was much more interested in seldom seen cousins, nephews and firecrackers.

The last time I visited Oklahoma was with my mother in the early 1970's about a decade before her death. She was visiting places in her memory and so was I. She wanted to see if we could find the grave of Kitty Banta at Council Hill. I drove to where my mother remembered Council Hill was. We found some foundations but couldn't locate the cemetery. She told me that she had come there with my Father to Kitty's grave before I was born in 1941. I knew that Kitty was a relative (Kitty's photo seen here) and was related to some famous Texas Ranger. We continued our memory journey and visited other places in Oklahoma and Arkansas where her family was from and found them all.

Recently my last surviving uncle (my father's youngest brother) sent a packet of very old photos and other material to my younger brother. (In photo, my father is on the right with his younger brother on other side of my grandmother Rose in 1933.) Included was a letter written by L.G. Park, son of Kitty Banta and older brother of my grandmother Rose. L.G. Park described a wagon trip he and his father (Robert Park) took into Indian Territory in 1897 when L.G. was 17. They were living at that time in Terral, Indian Territory. The letter says they started north to “see what the rest of Oklahoma looked like and to see if we could find country that suited us better than the place we're living.” I find his letter fascinating and marvel at how little I know about the lives of my ancestors. The bits I remember seem so casual.

Everyone apparently referred to Kitty Banta by her maiden name. Her father, Captain William Banta, was a famous Texas Ranger in the 1840s-1850s. Kitty's son, L.G. Park, lived in Council Hill in 1933 (according to internet research) and Kitty was buried there in 1936. Council Hill must not have “blown away” yet. My grandmother Rose was one of Kitty Banta's (Park) daughters. I remember Rose well. I lived with her during the summer of 1958. I see my past growing ever longer. What a wonderful feeling to have a sense of my place on a path extending in both directions.

Searching the internet, I've discovered that the town of Council Hill seems to have been reborn, it had a population of 129 in the 2000 census. My searches also discovered that the original seat of the Creek (American Indian) government (after removal to Indian Territories) was located at Council Hill, but the site was west of the present-day Council Hill. The Indian Territories became the State of Oklahoma in first years of the twentieth century.

That's me between Mom and Dad in 1943 in front of grandad's house in Oklahoma. The house I remember from those summer family reunions and all those fireworks!

Which Council Hill site did my mother want to find? Why was L.G Park and his mother living in Council Hill? Did L.G. and his father come here on the 1897 wagon trip? What blew away? My past is still a bit misty like my memory.

J of JaM

Sunday, 11 May 2008


When I was a little girl, I believed that the world consisted of children and adults (I also included dogs, cats, horses and cows). I regarded adults as people who had finished growing up. I imagined that when I finished growing up, I would marry and have several children. World War II had ended and my parents' general relief and new optimism meant I could relax, too, as my sensitive antennae tuned to the emotional vibes around me detected less stress. However, in some schools, students now practiced crouching under desks in order to know what to do in event of an atomic bomb landing nearby. I did worry about pleasing adults and about doing things the right way, which someone usually claimed to know and wanted to demonstrate.

As a little girl, I didn't imagine that adults can continue to mature, mellow and perhaps grow wise. I didn't imagine that adults might not have all the answers. I assumed that a magic transition to adulthood occurred at age 21 and that voting and drinking had something to do with it. Even though I got my driver's license at age 16, entitled to subject myself and passengers to the statistics of life-threatening experiences associated with driving, I recognised that my less-than-adult status would continue for another five years.

As a little girl, no one wondered what I wanted to be when I grew up. As the youngest daughter (with four siblings) in a family struggling to make ends meet in a small rural community, I couldn't begin to imagine the unexpected opportunities I would encounter and take: attending UC Berkeley in the 1960s, swirling through rock n' roll, traveling in Europe, having one child, learning to spin, weave and edit video, learning to be a single mother for a time, working for LucasFilm in the 1980s, marrying my soul mate, migrating to Australia, diving into the Internet, living long enough to look around and realise I've joined the elder crowd, still delighting in new answers.

The Road Ahead continues to lead to a future with aspects beyond my imagining.

Uncertainty carries seeds of fear. Like that little girl, when I feel anxiety around me about the future, I take heart in Signs of Hope along the way. How do I recognise Signs of Hope? I see them when I remember to look with my heart.

M in JaM (and photo by J)

Friday, 2 May 2008


A mining rush began when Tin was discovered in this area in 1880. About a kilometer down river (below our place) a water powered mill was established in 1884. It operated until 1917. The block of land we live on was surveyed and named as a perpetual mining homestead lease. I don't know if this block was occupied at that time. There are no obvious remains of occupation before the 1970's.

When the mill closed in 1917, the mining stopped and the area became almost deserted until the 1970's when people moved back into the area. I would guess that our property was fenced in the 1950's or 60's from the style of the bits of remaining fence. Maybe someone ran cattle here for a while?

At some point the block was surveyed again and they used proper blazed trees to mark the corners of our boundaries. Some of the blazed trees still stand and some have fallen. Time takes its toll on trees also. The surveyor's records have handwritten notes jotted beside the mapped location of the blazed corner trees. The notes describe the distance and direction from the blazed tree that one can find iron pins driven below the ground. These iron pins are the actual survey markers.

The old perpetual mining homestead leases got converted into freehold title in the 1980's, just before we moved here. The survey work at that time changed a few boundaries and moved a few fences. The conflicts arising from those boundary shifts have subsided after 25 years.

When we had recent survey work done, the surveyor relocated the old iron pins and recorded all new data using digital theodolites and GPS mapping standards. Blazed trees mark the past. Boundaries join the digital world.

J of JaM