Before and After

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The camp host down the road is a Deadhead too. I determined this fact when I noticed she wore a necklace with a Grateful Dead dancing bear pendant. Every time I talked to her, I was happy to see that bear kicking its leg right above her uniform shirt.

A couple of weeks into the season, I saw she wasn’t wearing the necklace, but I didn’t think too much about it. I figured the heat had probably made wearing the necklace uncomfortable, so she took it off.

One day the Deadhead camp host came to the parking lot to pick up some day passes. She saw me making a hemp necklace and got excited.  Her necklace with the bear pendant was coming apart. Maybe I could fix it? I told her to bring the necklace by sometime and I’d have a look at it.

This is what the camp host's necklace looked like before I rehabbed it.

This is what the Deadhead camp host’s necklace looked like before I rehabbed it.

My two days off rolled around, and I decided to save money by not leaving the mountain. When the Deadhead camp host did her patrol through my campground on Monday morning, I invited her to get the necklace to me. She had it with her when she came through the campground that evening.

Hemp is a very strong, sturdy material. (If you’re unfamiliar with hemp, you can learn about it here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/19/hemp-2/.) However, just like most everything else, it eventually wears out. Her necklace was coming apart at the loop that slipped over a bead and held the whole thing together. I told her there was no way I could fix the loop, but I offered to take the necklace apart and restring the beads. The Deadhead camp host offered to pay me for my work, but I’m not one to take money from another Deadhead, especially a Deadhead who’s also a nice co-worker.

I thought it was going to be an easy task: tie a few knots, restring the beads in the same order they were in originally, tie a few more knots, done. Unfortunately, the job turned out to be a bit more difficult than I had planned.

My first problem what that the thinnest hemp cord I had was thicker than the hemp cord used in the original necklace. I used what I had, hoping the Deadhead camp host would like a slightly thicker look.

The second problem was that the original necklace only used one strand of hemp as the carrier (middle) cord, and I was using two strands for the carrier. I didn’t realize this until I had made four inches of very nice spiral knots. The double strand carrier cord wasn’t a problem until I started trying to string the smaller beads. My double strand carrier cord was just microns too large for the tiny holes in the little beads.

To compound my difficulties, my eyes have apparently changed and my glasses don’t help me see anything close. I had to repeatedly remove my glasses so I could do the up-close work with the tiny beads. My large, clumsy fingers did not help the situation.

Every time I tried to shove the tiny beads onto the carrier cord, the hemp frayed. I had to snip the carrier cord after every bead in order to be able to work with the hemp.

I had to take some artistic license. I quit trying to use the tiny beads carved from bone. The holes were just too small. I could work the tiny metal beads onto the necklace, but it was a struggle. I had some small metal beads on hand that I used to replace the missing bone beads.

I think the rehabbed necklace looks great! The Deadhead camp host seems to like it too. When I gave the necklace back to her, she gave me a big hug and put it on immediately. She also wrote a very nice review on my Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook page.

Here’s what the Deadhead camp host said at https://www.facebook.com/Blaizin-Sun-Creations-291317231259583/reviews:

Blaize rescued my favorite dancing bear hemp necklace. It was old and worn and the “clasp” was no longer working. She restrung it beautifully, retaining it’s [sic] uniqueness. I couldn’t be happier with the result. Thank you Blaize!!

This is how the camp host's necklace looked after I rehabbed it.

This is how the Deadhead camp host’s necklace looked after I rehabbed it.

Family

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Sometimes a whole family is a mess.

It was the first Saturday in August, and the parking lot was a bit slower than it had been throughout July. Sure, the lot was crowded, and we were busy, but the sense of chaos wasn’t quite so intense.

My interaction with the family started with the grandmother, who wanted to park with the other two vehicles in her party. She tried to park beside some trees (instead of nose-in, between trees, like most people park), but that didn’t quite work out, even with a young man standing behind her car, waving his arms and giving directions. Grandma gave up on this potential parking place rather quickly and drove off deeper into the parking lot to find an easier spot.

My next interaction with the family came when Dad (the young man who’d tried to direct Grandma in parking) approached me and asked about the location of the water slides. I pulled out a map, pointed to we are here, then pointed to the waterslides are there. The man exhibited no glimmer or recognition. Nothing. The lights were on, and yet, nobody seemed to be home.

Can we get there from here? Dad asked me.

Why yes! I wanted to say. This is a map. What a map does is show how to get there from here. Instead I pointed out the two roads he could take.

Dad walked away, skeptical, until his brother-in-law said he had directions.

Then Grandma joined the rest of the family in my vicinity.

I left my purse in the tent, she announced. I have to go back. I’m worried. I left my purse in the tent.

Her daughter thought she had left her purse in the car, until Grandma made her understand by saying, I left my purse in the tent at the campground.

Something in the word campground made the daughter’s brain click that tent and car are two different places, and the old lady’s purse was not a short walk away.

Grandma was insistent that she had to go back to the campground because she was worried about her purse in the tent. Her daughter said they were going to walk the trail before they went back to the campground, which didn’t seem to be nearby.

By this point, most of the members of the extended family that had arrived in three vehicles were clustered near where my co-worker and I stand at the front of the parking lot. Grandma was joined by her two daughters and at least ten children ranging in age from 3 to 14. I don’t know why they were all standing there—probably waiting for folks to return from the restroom, get water out of the cooler, or otherwise get their shit together.

The two smallest children were milling about fully in the parking lot’s roadway.

You probably want to get out of the street, folks, I said to the crowd. People drive into this parking lot fast sometimes. (Which is true.)

The first small child moved closer to the other children, but the littlest girl remained where she was.

Lyla, come here, one of the adult sisters said to the girl standing in the roadway.

Lyla turned her head away from the woman and ignored her command.

Lyla, come here now, the woman said again sternly.

Lyla had apparently lost the ability to hear, for she took no heed of the woman’s words and didn’t move a muscle.

Dee-lye-la! the woman shouted. Get over here NOW! This is a street!

A miracle! Lyla could hear again. She languidly turned her head toward the woman with a look of Oh? Are you talking to me? on her tiny face. Then she slowly left the middle of the roadway and joined the clot of kinfolk.

About that time, I looked to my left and over my shoulder and saw Junior, approximately age nine, sprawled in the middle of the roadway, messing around with his shoes. He’d managed to remove his red flip flops and put on his white socks. He hadn’t yet put on his sneakers. He was just sitting on the pavement, shoes strewn around him.

I should have just let him sit there, slowly figure out what shoes are for, how they relate to feet, how to go about the next steps in his task, but I imagined disaster and jumped up.

Sweetheart, I said, you don’t want to sit in the middle of the road to do that.

The grandma and the two adult sisters sprang into verbal action. That’s a street! they admonished the boy.

Junior shuffled around in his stocking feet, holding his sneakers and his flip flops, looking for a place to sit to put on his shoes. Apparently standing while putting on shoes was beyond his capabilities. None of the women could come up with a place for him to sit until Grandma honed in on my chair, which I had abandoned when I jumped up in astonishment at seeing an unsupervised little boy sitting in the middle of a place where drivers pull in too fast, where drivers often claim not to see me (and I’m a not insubstantial adult standing and waving my arm).

I should have let the kid sit in the road and go about his oh-so-slow business of putting on his sneakers. Maybe one of his parents would have noticed him and had him move. If a car had come in, I could have jumped to the rescue. But I’d had to open my big mouth and get involved, and worse, move my butt from my chair. Now Grandma was asking if the boy could possibly, just maybe, only for a moment sit in my chair while he put on his shoes.

I said yes. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have an alternative to suggest, and I knew this family was not going anywhere until Junior had his shoes on.

So Junior sat in my chair and slow-as-getting-out-of-a-warm-bed-on-a-cold-Monday-morning, he put on his sneakers. His mother never told him to hurry up or bent down to humiliated him into getting his ass into gear by “helping” him. Everybody just stood there and waited.

I looked over and saw a second tiny girl. This one had her foot propped up on my chair. I realized she had her foot on my chair’s attached folding table, the table who’s top I’d collaged. She had her foot up on the folded down table, rocking it back and forth on its hinge. If any of the adults had noticed her activity, no one had told her to cease and desist.

This was all I could take. I rushed over to that side of the chair and said, Sweetheart! (in a tone of voice that really meant, Hey you snot nose brat!)

Don’t put your foot on my chair! You’re going to get it dirty!

To her credit, the child immediately removed her foot from my collaged surface. She actually looked repentant. (I probably looked like a rabid ape lady.)

This photo I took shows the collaged surface of the folding table the girl child had her foot on.

This photo I took shows the collaged surface of the folding table the girl child had her foot on.

Her mother directed the child to Say you’re sorry!

The girl child looked up at me with big cow eyes and whispered, I’m sorry; I almost felt bad.

I couldn’t take one moment more of this genetic pool, so I hid behind the information board until they all went away.

 

People of God

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The woman was wearing a sort of little bonnet, which made me think they belonged to some religious sect. Otherwise, they were dressed conservatively but normally. The man had on long pants and a shirt with a collar. In addition to her small bonnet (think Amish woman, not Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie), the woman was wearing a nondescript blouse and a long, sedately floral skirt. Both of them had gray hair and were probably at least 70 years old.

The man didn’t have a bushy Amish style beard; he was clean cut, with no beard or mustache at all. Neither of them was wearing the style of clothing of the Amish or even the Old German Baptist Brethren. They were wearing colors. They were definitely not plain. But the bonnet was shouting Religion!

They had some question about the trail, which I answered to the best of my ability. I pointed them to the map of the trail posted at the front of the parking lot. I was helpful, but we didn’t have any great conversation. I felt no special connection to the couple.

When they returned from the trail, they had more questions. They actually drove their small pickup truck right to where I was standing and asked how to get to their next destination. The man showed me his atlas, which offered little detail of the area. I pulled out a tourist info guidebook (a freebie, filled with advertisements), which had a better map. I showed the man the best route to where they were headed, then offered him the guide book. He took it gratefully. Again, I’d been helpful, but felt no special connection to either of the people.

The man drove the truck back into the depths of the parking lot. (I suspect they were visiting the restrooms). After some time, the truck again approached the front of the parking lot. Before they got to the exit, the man again stopped the truck near me.

We’d like you to have this, the man said. He was holding a small, bright blue book with gold writing in the upper right corner. Oh no! It was a Bible—or at least a New Testament.

Is that weird? Is it weird to try to hand off the Word of God to a stranger? I guess it’s not weird to the religious people who do it. They believe they’re right, and they probably think they’re doing us heathens a favor. But being offered a Bible (or the New Testament or the Koran or the Book of Mormon or whatever) by people I’d only spoken to about maps and driving directions felt very weird to me.

I kept my cool. I smiled, shook my head and said, No thanks!

The people of God left.

After they left, I wondered if there’d been money in the little holy book. It seemed like a good trick: put money in the holy book, then laugh at the heathen when she turned it down. But that wouldn’t be a very Christian game to play. Besides, why give money to someone with a job, someone obviously tugging on her bootstraps? Maybe if they were handing the holy book to a panhandler or someone they perceived to be homeless, maybe then they’d tuck some dollars in there. But I probably hadn’t passed up anything more than holy scripture.

How to Use a Pit Toilet

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This photo shows a pit toilet. Today I am going to tell you how to use one.

I shouldn’t have to explain to grown people how to use a pit toilet, but so many folks seem baffled when confronted with a toilet that doesn’t flush. Really, people, the process is the same, whether the toilet flushes or not. In the name of public service, today I will lay down instructions for pit toilet use.

#1 Knock before you enter. When did knocking on a closed door fall out of favor? People seem to either reach out and try to open a closed door or simply stand in front of a closed door waiting for someone to exit. (Sometimes no one is behind the door.) Has peeking under a stall to check for occupancy taken the place of knocking? Since pit toilets are totally enclosed, peeking won’t work. If you want to know if someone’s in there, you’re going to have to knock.

#2 Lock the door behind you. If you don’t, one of those people who opens doors without knocking is probably going to walk in on you.

#3 If you fail to lock the door behind you and someone opens the door while you’re taking care of business, try not to fly off the toilet in mid urine stream. Shrieking is permissible, but remember, it’s your own dang fault. You should have locked the door.

#4 Sit on the toilet. That’s right, sit. Sit all the way down,with both cheeks on the seat. It’s no dirtier than a city toilet. If you need to protect yourself from germs, bring disinfectant in with you and spray down the seat before you sit.

#5 If you must make a seat cover from toilet paper before you sit, deposit said seat cover into the toilet before you leave. You may not want your butt to touch the surface of the toilet seat, but the person who uses the toilet after you does not want to touch toilet paper your butt’s been on.

#6 By sitting (not perching, not hovering), your excretory openings should be pointing down, so your waste materials will fall (thanks, gravity!) and not end up splashed all over the inside walls (known as risers in the pit toilet business) of the toilet. The person who cleans the toilet will be grateful for your help in keeping the risers as clean as possible.

#7 Men, don’t spray urine everywhere. I don’t understand why men get urine on the floor and on the outside front of toilets. (I know this is not only a problem when pit toilets are involved.) My best advice to men: Pay attention to your aim.

#8 Toilet paper goes into the toilet, not on the floor.

#9 Trash (feminine hygiene leftovers, beer cans, whatever) goes in a trash can. Do not leave trash on the floor. Do not throw trash into the toilet.

#10 If you get some bodily discharge (blood, urine, feces, mucus, whatever) on the toilet or the floor, WIPE IT UP completely. No one else wants to touch it.

#11 Close the toilet’s lid after you stand up. Closing the lid keeps the stink in and bugs out. If you can’t bear to touch the lid with your hand, use your foot. Whatever way you’ve got to do it, CLOSE THE LID before you leave.

#12 If you are in a place with a pit toilet, there may not be running water. If hand washing is important to you (and it should be!) carry hand sanitizer or a jug of water and soap so you can scrub up after your visit to the pit toilet.

There are many situations in life when do unto others… applies. Pit toilet use is definitely one of those situations. Do your best to leave the restroom in a condition that wouldn’t make you gag if you walked in.

Two New Infinity Scarves

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In May, I started working on an infinity scarf for a friend. I worked on it sporadically, but I just couldn’t get excited about the task. I was dreading the final step, for which I had used an online video as a guide when I made the first scarf. Would I be able to follow the written instructions I’d printed before I left Babylon? I was unsure of my ability to remember how to do the final step or to follow the written instructions. I didn’t want to mangle my friend’s gift.

But one day I decided I’d procrastinated enough. The time to finish the scarf had arrived.

I got to the final step. I read the directions. I followed them one at a time. I remembered what I’d seen in the video. I finished the scarf. It wasn’t mangled. Yippie!

IMG_6733On the left is the scarf I made for my friend, my second infinity scarf. My friend grew up in New England, so as I made this scarf for her, I thought of the leaves changing colors in that part of the world. I tried to capture the autumn colors to remind her of home.

Quick! Before I could forget what I’d just relearned, I made another infinity scarf for another friend. This one was easier. I finished it quickly, in a couple of day.

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My road dog Esmerelda models the infinity scarf I made for a friend.

This friend’s favorite color is purple, so I used a purple and blue color scheme. I think it came out great.

Now I feel confident in my scarf-making abilities. Pretty soon I won’t even have to look at the instructions while I work.

I took the photos in this post.

Berry Picking

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One Tuesday morning, on my way from my creek sanctuary to the post office, I saw a car parked on the side of the road. Upon looking more closely, I saw two women standing near thick vegetation. IMG_6694

I couldn’t suppress my curiosity. I stopped the van, opened my small, triangle shaped side window, and called out, What are you ladies doing?

Picking berries, one replied.

What kind of berries? I asked.

Blackberries, she said.

Oh! I might come back! I told her.

Come on back, she agreed. There’s plenty.

By the time I finished at the post office, the day was growing hot, and I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, so I drove on by the blackberry bushes and the ladies harvesting the wild fruit.

A week later, I was at the bargain grocery store in Babylon. I found fancy, organic whole-milk yogurt for a really good price. I put the yogurt in my cart and wondered what I could add to it to jazz it up. I had almond slices in the IMG_6705van…that would be a tasty addition. Berries would be good too, but the fresh strawberries and blueberries in the produce section were priced higher than what I wanted to pay.

Then I remembered the women on the road picking blackberries. Fresh blackberries would be good with the fancy yogurt. I decided to risk that the season was over or the berries had all been picked. If there were still berries free for the picking, I’d have hit the jackpot. If the berries were all gone, I could enjoy the yogurt with almonds.

I got to my creek sanctuary after dark and slept to the sound of rushing water.

I was up early the next morning and arrived at the post office moments after it opened.

After picking up my mail, I headed to the blackberry bushes. To my delight, I saw there were plenty of berries for me.IMG_6690

It had been years since I’d picked blackberries. I remembered it was a scratchy activity, but I had forgotten quite howIMG_6688 serious the thorns on the bushes are. I was wearing a filmy, floaty, flowy cotton skirt when I first approached the bushes, and I was immediately ensnared by the thorns. I thought of the characters in the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a whole community sleeping behind thorny bushes that enveloped the castle. Once I’d extracted my skirt from the real-life thorns, I walked back to the van and put on jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Then I was able to get down to serious picking.

I concentrated on the bushes in the shade. There wasn’t much traffic on the road, so I didn’t feel unsafe. While there were plenty of berries to pick, the plumpest of them always seemed just out of my reach.

In less than an hour, I’d filled my travel mug three times. Each time it filled, I walked back to the van and dumped the berries into zipper bags. Two nearly full zipper bags seemed like plenty.IMG_6685

Back at my campsite, I rinsed the berries with fresh water. Once all were rinsed, it was the moment of truth.

I put half of the yogurt from one container into my blue bowl. Then I added a generous  mound of blackberries and mixed the two ingredients gently. The first taste was sublime. The yogurt was cold and creamy and a little sour, while the berries were sweet and a bit tart too. Yum!IMG_6706

Free food is wonderful. I’ll gladly do a little work out in the fresh air to save a little cash. When free food is fresh and wild and healthy and tasty—well, that’s all the better.

If I had the means to can blackberry jam or a freezer for storage, I would have picked more berries and put them away to enjoy in the winter. Since I have no way to store berries for more than a couple of days, I enjoyed what I picked in the fleeting, delicious now.

I took all the photos in this post.

Haiku

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According to https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/haiku-poetic-form,

A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

Haiku began in thirteenth-century Japan as the opening phrase of renga, an oral poem, generally 100 stanzas long, which was also composed syllabically. The much shorter haiku broke away from renga in the sixteenth-century..

I’ve written a haiku or two in my time, most recently in June of this year. Here’s my latest:

The wind is chilly

today and the sun hidden.

Must find my jacket.