Monday, October 31, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline - the final harvest?
I'd like to say I waited deliberately to post to the blog today so that I could post on Halloween -- but it's not true. The truth is that Kitty and I spent last night driving home from Columbus, Ohio, and this year's World Fantasy Convention. The panel I was on went very well, judging by the fact that a few people I'd never met came up to me afterward and told me they enjoyed it. Maybe it was because I got to mention Nanabush.

Anyway, I had a swell time at the convention, but was glad to sleep in my own bed last night.


Samhain is the Pagan version of New Year's Eve: the final harvest on the Wheel of the Year. And I think that makes this a good time to talk about something that's been going on in North Dakota for the past several months: the Native American actions against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Earlier today, a post encouraging people around the world to "check in" at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota flew around Facebook, and tens of thousands of people did. The post said the idea was to confuse the Morton County, ND, sheriff's department into believing the crowd protesting the DAPL was much larger than it actually was. While a spokesman for the department said they don't use Facebook for such surveillance activities, the technology does exist. And the Standing Rock protesters said they're grateful for the publicity.

What's this all about? Briefly: The $3.8 million project is already under construction. When finished -- assuming it's ever finished -- the pipeline would stretch 1,172 miles, bringing crude oil from northern Montana and North Dakota to Illinois. There, the DAPL would hook up with existing pipelines to route the crude to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The project has won approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the pipeline route crosses a corner of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, threatening some of the tribe's sacred sites. In addition, the pipeline would cross the Missouri River twice, endangering water for crops, livestock, and people (not all of them Indians - the Missouri River watershed is home to some 12 million people) if the pipe were to spring a leak, which happens more often than pipeline advocates care to admit. The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, David Archambault II, says the government didn't follow its own rules for negotiating with the tribe. Members of the tribe have been protesting since April, blocking construction crews and prompting police to beef up their presence at the site. Protesters and police have clashed several times since then, resulting in arrests, injuries, and compelling photos of unarmed Indians facing cops in riot gear. Last week, police arrested more than 140 people blockading a road, first subduing them with pepper spray and tear gas. In September, Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman was arrested while covering the protest. A judge later dismissed the charges against Goodman, but the fact she was charged at all is troubling to this former journalist.

Indigenous peoples from across North and South America have announced their support for the DAPL protesters, as have A-list actors, numerous politicians, Muslims, gay pride groups, and many others. The United Nations International Indian Treaty Council is investigating reports of human rights abuses at the site.

Fibonacci Blue | CC 2.0 |
Those speaking in solidarity with the Standing Rock protesters have focused largely on environmental issues: not just the danger to the watershed -- #WaterIsLife, as the hashtag goes -- but also climate change, and our continued reliance on oil and gas rather than developing cleaner sources of power like wind and solar. But the environment is not the only issue at stake -- and for the Standing Rock Sioux, it may not even be the most important one.

Not long ago, I read a book called The Shawnees and the War for America by Colin G. Calloway. It's a quick read, but it highlights the way the white man -- from the British to the French to the American government -- have been lying to Native American tribes ever since whites first came to North America. In treaty after treaty, Indian nations agreed to give up some of their hunting lands in exchange for other lands, beads, and money -- and the government has lived up to the terms of none of them. Now, again, with the DAPL, the United States government is violating a treaty with Native Americans and skirting its own rules. But this time, in a way that has been impossible until the advent of social media, the whole world is watching -- and this time, finally, the U.S. government may reap what it has sown.

Blessed Samhain, everyone.

This bloggy harvest moment has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Life and its passages.

I have news!

  1. Next weekend, I'll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. I'll be on a panel called "The Fantasy of the American Heartland" Thursday afternoon, Oct. 27th, at 4:00pm. If you're planning to attend the convention, I hope you'll stop by and say hi.
  2. At long last, the omnibus of the Pipe Woman's Legacy series is just about ready to go out the door. Release day ought to be sometime this week. Keep an eye on the usual social media sites.
  3.  I'm also overdue for sending out a newsletter, so be on the lookout for that, too.

Maybe it's the time of year -- Samhain is only a week away -- or maybe it's that we have lost so many great people in 2016, and we still have two months to go. But Death seems to be on my mind a lot lately. (Witness my Mabon post of just a few weeks ago.)

But death isn't always bad.

Take the Tarot, for example. This is a photo I took of the Death card from the first Tarot deck I ever bought. When this card shows up in a reading, people who are unfamiliar with its meaning have been known to freak out. And why not? It's the thirteenth card! Everybody knows thirteen is an unlucky number! And there's a skeleton on a horse! And the sun is setting on the horizon!

Really? Maybe it's rising.

And what about that flag Death is carrying? On my card, the flower is red, but in regular Rider-Waite decks it's white. (What can I say? It was a cheap deck.) White is the color of beauty and purity, and it can also symbolize immortality.

The thing we tend to forget when we get all worked up over death is that something has to end before a new thing can begin. What this card actually signals is the start of a period of transformation -- the death of old ways of thinking and habits that have been holding us back. Or it can mean the end of a season of life -- say, the transition from high school to college, or from childlessness to parenthood, or from the working world to retirement. Of course you're glad to be on the threshold of this new phase of life, but it's also a bit frightening. Once the old way is behind you, you can never really go back.

On the card, Death is wearing armor because it's invincible. Nobody yet has gotten out of this life alive, and nobody living has escaped profound change of some sort.

In that sense, Death is just a phase. We're standing on the threshold of the transition from the old way of life to the new. Negotiating the transition may be tricky, and it will likely be painful. But it's going to be worth it in the end.

Speaking of beginnings, NaNoWriMo starts in a little over a week, and you may have guessed by now that the cycle of death/transition/rebirth will be one of the themes in my NaNo novel this year. But don't worry -- I promise it won't be too serious.

These moments of deathly bloggery have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Behind the brown door.

I had every intention of writing a blog post last weekend while I was away, but time got away from me as I visited with friends, and I forgot to even put up the "on vacation" sign. I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've completely missed a week in the five years (five years!) I've been doing this blog. Still -- sorry about that. I hope I can make it up to you with this week's post, which is about Georgia O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe is probably my favorite painter. I can take or leave her flower paintings -- which, by the way, she never meant to be sexual. "I hate flowers," she's quoted as saying. "I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move." The art world pinned the "girl painting girl parts" label on her because her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, had used her as a nude model for his photography.

My favorite O'Keeffe works are those she painted after she discovered New Mexico: the bones, the amazing landscapes, and this one window. I loved the window painting so much when I saw it at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe that I bought a print and framed it. It's called In the Patio II and she painted it in 1948.

That wall fascinated O'Keeffe. She painted and sketched it at least twenty times. It's the reason she spent more than ten years convincing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to sell her the crumbling ranch house with the patio -- a courtyard, really -- in the center.

The wall fascinated me, too. I wanted to know what was on the other side of the window. I was sure it was something magical.

But when I took a tour of her house and studio in Abiquiu, NM, this past week, I discovered it's not a window at all. It's a door. Here's a link to what the real thing looks like. I'm resorting to a link so that I don't violate any copyrights -- but I encourage you to click through so you can see what I'm talking about. In the photo at the link, see how the shadow of the adjoining wall slants across the wall with the door? Well, when I was there, the wall with the door was itself casting the shadow. Adobe is the same color as the dirt in the courtyard. And O'Keeffe was a Minimalist; she left out details to get at the essence of what she was painting. So for In the Patio II, she left out the line where the wall ends and the patio starts. The dark stripe under the door is the shadow of the wall; the brighter stripe beyond is sunlit dirt.

So what's behind the door? It's a storage room, according to our guide. O'Keeffe hated clutter. She kept all her extra canvases and brushes and paints and stuff in there.

Some folks might have been disappointed to hear that, but not me. I was charmed. For the tools and supplies are what O'Keeffe used to make her art. She kept magic behind that door -- just as I'd suspected all along.

These moments of bloggy curiosity have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Yes, it's another knitting post.

It occurred to me last week, after I wrote about those cute alpacas, that it had been a while since I talked about the stuff I turn all this yarn into. And knitting is on my brain anyway, since I've been doing a lot of it lately (knitting is a stress reducer! The New York Times says so!) and also since I've been evaluating my project queue with an eye toward packing for a trip later this week.

Since my last post on my projects in May, it turns out, I've been pretty darned busy. First up is the Pogona shawl, which I mentioned in that post.

There's a story behind the yarn I chose for this project, and it begins when I was in college. Back in 1975, freshmen at Indiana University came to campus for a few days over the summer for orientation and to sign up for classes. Back then, there was no such thing as online anything. Registration was a real-time event. Each academic department set up long tables with boxes and boxes of IBM punch cards, organized by course number and section; to sign up for a class, you went to the department's table and told them which class and section you wanted. If there were punch cards available, you were in; if not, better luck next semester. Anyway, after all that, you were funneled into the Financial Aid line, where they gave you actual cash money; unfortunately, from there, you went immediately to the queue for the bursar's office, where you handed over all the money that Financial Aid had just given you. The very last thing you did was to get your photo taken for your student ID. "Stand right there," the photographer said, and pointed to a pair of barefoot footprints painted on the floor of the gym. After the gantlet I had just run, I thought those feet were hilarious. The resulting goofy grin graced my student ID for the next four years, and earned me the nickname Chesh -- short, of course, for Cheshire Cat.

So when my daughter Amy spotted a yarn called Cheshire Cat at the shop where she worked, she alerted me, and of course I had to buy some. And I used it to make the Pogona.

Moving on...

I brought a lot of yarn back from Ireland, but I kept just two skeins for myself. I used it for an asymmetrical triangular shawl that I'm calling Emerald Hills. The pattern is called Winter Sea, but mine is green. I think the chevron design looks a little like trees marching up a hillside, if you squint just right. Here's a close-up so you can be the judge.

Then I decided I wanted something big and navy blue that I could wrap up in and wear with jeans. So I bought a bunch of aran-weight yarn in a dark blue and made a Guernsey Wrap. The big challenge with this project was reading the charted directions correctly when I turned the work to knit back. I ripped out more than a few rows of knitting before I got the pattern settled in my mind.

Here's the final result, stretched across the back of my loveseat (pardon the mess!). I'm looking forward to wearing this when it gets a little cooler outside.

Before someone asks: Yes, I made the cover on the pillow in the foreground. As for the ripple afghan: I made part of it. My mother bought me a kit so I could learn how to crochet. I got maybe a third of it done before she realized I was going way too slowly to finish it before I headed off to college, and took it back. So Mom made the afghan, but I helped.

One more: the project I finished tonight is called the Vee Vee shawl, and it, too, comes with a story. The dark yarn is a qiviut sock yarn that I bought in Alaska. It's beautiful stuff, as you can see from the photo. I knitted it up into a shawl right after I bought it, but either the pattern was screwy or my gauge was way off. In any case, I had only half as much yarn as I needed to complete the project, and I ended up never wearing the shawl. Last year, I reclaimed the qiviut yarn and paired it with this lighter variegated yarn, and last week, I decided to make them into a Vee Vee. The knitting took no time at all, even though I made a mistake about halfway through and had to rip out one whole section of the dark yarn. (The photo is not great; the parts that look green are actually gray. But you get the idea.)

Have no fear -- I'm working on story ideas, too, while I've been doing all this knitting, and I plan to bang out the first draft of the next book during NaNoWriMo. I'm pretty sure nobody in it will be a knitter.

These moments of knitty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.