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Archive for August, 2012

Doors of Montreal: an Artform

Friday, August 31st, 2012


Hi, Honey, I’m home!

I made it back from Montreal in the wee hours last night. It took about 15 hours from leaving my room in Montreal to opening the door in Lansing. I had  a good trip home, though. Other than the length of travel, it was not a particularly tiring day.

The Benefits of Change

My mind is spinning. There are so many things I learned about myself, so many passions returning to my heart, so many ideas and sparks in me because I got out of my home routine and went toward something new.

I’m sorting through the zillion photos I took. It’s a challenge to group them in any kind of logical way.

The first and easiest thing I could do to get you a bit of eye candy quickly, was a Door Collection. I pulled out shots of about 30 doors I photographed during my travels, by foot, in Montreal.

Wearing Out My Shoe Leather

One of the joys of a vibrant large city, is public transit. Montreal has a metro (subway) system which is excellent. They also have trains and numerous taxis, plus rent-a-bicycle systems and lots of things which are accessible by foot.

I took advantage of the metro and walking. I love to walk.

Surprises and Beauty Everywhere

I explored many parts of the island city. I walked in business areas, neighborhoods, museums and churches, parks and gardens. The doors really spoke to me. What a history they can tell, and what personalities they have!

In some cases it is clear that the actual door is new, while the frame around it is very old carved stone. I was sort of amazed, too, at how many doors downtown did not have doorknobs on the outside.

Oh, Yes! These are Art!

The premise of ColorJoy is that many things are artful, many more than just paintings hung on walls in museums. These doors fit here  perfectly, even those which are not colorful in the rainbow sense.

I’m offering a few photos as a teaser, on this page. If you are intrigued, please-

Click Here to View a Slideshow of the full set of doors.

(The above link takes you to the Flickr website.)
(In order… door/gate in what I think was a Presbyterian School; 60’s-ish Turquoise doors on multi-unit home, beautiful door on very old residence; embellished fire door on what I think was a water utility company building; door to art supply store on St. Catherines in what I believe is called “Latin Quarter.” All of this is some guesswork, since I don’t read French signs very accurately.)

Street Art, Giraffes, and Montreal

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

My Sis-in-Love Diana/Otterwise sent me a link to a site indexing street art… images which show up on Google Street View. (Click link above for site, click images below for their locations on that site.)

Ironically, Diana sent the link to me the day after I took my own photos of this, in Montreal (photo below by Google Street View):

And here is an image of one of my favorite art projects in Michigan… the Heidelberg Project in Detroit:

The Heidelberg Project is huge, not a single house but a neighborhood. Making art from junk discarded on the street has made this neighborhood a tourist destination with no violent crime in something like 25 years.

You may not love the aesthetic, but you’d be inhuman to dislike the impact it’s had… not only safety but pride of place.

Saying Goodbye/ Bon Voyage to Montreal

I’m on my last day in Montreal. I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’ve *LIVED* in the city, rather than being a tourist. I found groceries and markets on my own. I traveled by foot and by metro (subway).

This is how many folks live here. They have excellent public transit. My suite-mate rides her bike to work and back. It’s a very accessible city, even without a car, even out far from downtown (subway trains run until 1am). I had some lovely experiences.

The Africa Collection

I got much project work done… the Africa project now has a plan, an outline, a good start, and knitting charts/graphs for all 3 colorwork socks are made. The photos I took in Africa and temporarily lost, are found (on a backup drive… backups are my friends.

Photo of me feeding a Giraffe in Kenya:


One Major Surprise: a Change

I read my journals from the time I was on the Africa trip. Unfortunately, I found them full of dry facts rather than storytelling for the most part. Still, they jogged my memory.

I’ve been telling stories of the trip since I got back. Ironically most of those stories did not make it into my journals. I don’t know why, but those are the stories I want to include in the collection.

Thanks to some insight from Barbara Sher (writer of Wishcraft and Refuse to Choose), I’m going to get those stories a new way for me.

I’m going to find friends who want to hear the stories, and tell them verbally while I have a recorder going. THEN I will transcribe the verbal stories. I tried to write one and it wasn’t as dynamic as the actual story as I tell it.

There is so much to tell you, but it’s 3:30pm on my last day here. I can go to a yarn shop or a museum before it’s closing time. First step, go to subway station. Decide on train. Aaah, the tension of choosing between two good options!

Photo of the side of a building in Montreal, featuring Giraffe images:


African-Inspired Knitting

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It has been a great week! I hope that my enthusiasm pours out of this screen and into your life. Things inside me are happy right now.

The African Collection (and Travel Stories)…

When I went to Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt) in 2004-05, I promised myself I could knit whatever I wanted to knit for that 38-day stretch. A windfall had funded the trip. Therefore, I could take it as a true vacation from my business and just knit for the pure joy of it.

Usually I knit with a mind toward what is easy to explain, or what is a good teaching project. Often I find a yarn that “tells me” what it wants to be.

I rarely just get to knit whatever is in my heart. For 5 weeks, I did just that.

I didn’t worry if it was hard to explain, or if someone might run away from it because it looked complicated. I just made beautiful things, the way I wanted them to look. (Actually, I also knit a bunch of simple socks for the joy of moving my fingers… but today I want to talk about the stars of the trip.)

Knitting Purely from My Heart

Perhaps you’ve seen these two socks before?

Kenya: Nairobi and Mombasa

The green sock at left, was inspired by gardens in Kenya. The garden I spent the most time in had many beautiful ironwork gates and walls. (It also had a 2nd floor balcony, ironically, just as the house where I’m staying in Montreal does.)

Flowers grow incredibly well  in Kenya (they grow carnations commercially in open fields, without greenhouses). This sock contains my memories of that lushness.

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Gondar, Bahar Dar and Lalibela

The white sock at right, was inspired by many things Ethiopian. It’s in the colors of the Ethiopian flag. At the top and on the heel, the texture reminds me of shepherd’s hats I saw in northern Ethiopia. The middle of the leg was inspired by Ethiopian baskets traditionally used as dinner tables. There was a small basket of this sort in my bedroom in Ethiopia. I referred to that basket as I worked.

When I was in Ethiopia, I made “friends” with many people who didn’t speak English, because of this pair of socks. Just by a glance, they could see that I loved their country and traditions. It was heartwarming to meet people this way.

Egypt: Cairo and Alexandria

When we were in Egypt, I took notes on possible sock design motifs. I scribbled a chart/graph and tucked it into my journals. This week I got out those journals and started transcribing the notes, changing a bit as the size restrictions of a sock leg required. And started knitting a sample.

The Actual Work

The goal is a collection of patterns and corresponding travel stories. I intend to package the patterns separately, for those who want only one or two. I’m also planning a full-project e-book of all projects and stories.

(Starting this project is why I came to Montreal, to write without normal obligations. A friend of a friend had a room to rent, and I jumped at the opportunity.)

I’ve graphed the Ethiopian Basket and Kenyan Garden sock leg patterns. I also knit a sample from the first draft of my Egyptian-inspired graph.

The colorwork is reminiscent of netted beadwork. I saw a bit of this in the jewelry collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This is also where King Tut’s treasures reside.

Sketching on the Needles

I’m doing a child-sized sock to test out the ideas on that one. I usually design by knitting and adjusting as I work. I’m liking how it looks, though I’ll tweak a bit in the final design.

A Potpourri of Techniques

Above are the three fanciest of the designs which will be in the Africa collection when I’m done. There are also some non-colorwork socks, in groupings. I knit a total of 10 sock designs on the trip, and also some wristwarmers. I’m thinking that this will end up being 7 designs, at least 2 of them with 2-3 variations.

The collection includes variety in structures: top down, with differing leg treatments, no-purl flap heel and wedge toe; toe-up footies with stripes and a Crystal Heel; and a thicker-yarn toe-up sock with wrapped cast on and heel flap.

The Ethiopian and Kenyan socks are top down with heel flap and turn (one is a Dutch Heel Turn, one is a standard half-handkerchief turn). The Egyptian sock is toe up with my “start with a square” Bosnian toe and a Crystal Heel.

It’s a big project. I’m excited about it. One day at a time, it’s coming together more in my mind. When I get a full picture I’ll let you know how the patterns will be released.

I currently plan to write them as individual patterns, as well as a series with travelogue stories/ photos to go with the collection. Once I get writing more, we’ll see how it plays out.

Catch you soon!

LynnH

A View from the Balcony

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Oh, I love Montreal! It’s summer and people get outside (unlike home, where so many hole up inside with air conditioning).

The windows are open in the houses around here (including where I’m staying) and people use their balconies regularly. One man across from our back balcony has his meals outside.

I have been sitting out there to write and to knit. There is a squirrel with a red/brown nose but his tail has a grayish halo to it, I’ve never seen this coloring before on a squirrel. I’m sure it’s normal here, but I’m a Michigan grrl.

There are a lot of parks nearby. When I walk to the grocery store (which is one end of a smallish enclosed mall) I can walk through a park most of the way. Today I tried the “dollar” store and found 3 grocery items, including oatmeal which I was craving.

I wanted to buy the rice noodles… but when I read the label, the ingredients were “Rice flour, corn starch.” Bah! Corn in everything, even safe Asian noodles. Sigh.

This city could distract me night and day. There are ethnic restaurants on every business street, it seems. There is a Thai and a Vietnamese and an Indian place near here, (plus a 24-hour Tim Horton’s with WIFI, a McDonald’s and Burger King.

Ironically, it’s really a quiet neighborhood and from where I stay you can’t see any businesses at all. This is a work trip, not a vacation, so I’m cooking at “home” most of the time to save on funds.

Wednesday night will be exciting. Many of the Montreal museums have free admission on Wednesdays after 5. In addition, the metro (subway) has a pass which is good for unlimited uses from 6pm to 5am, for only $4. I’m going to take myself out on the town this Wednesday, for sure!

It’s so wonderful to hear from you. Getting those comments makes it feel as though we’re on retreat here together! Thanks for taking the time to write.

Now… more knitting and typing… while making plans for which restaurant to try on my Museum-date night!!!

Hugs,

LynnH

Purple House, Persian Food – Montreal #1

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Montreal. It’s wonderful. I am here to write a travelogue/ series of patterns about my African trip, while sort of living a 2nd travelogue. I sure am taking a lot of photos!

Photos can be a full-time job, at least the way my brain goes about it. I may upload  some Flickr collections once I see what categories there may logically be.

Meanwhile… there is a lot more purple paint in Montreal per square kilometer, than there is in Lansing, Michigan. Here’s the first photo. I found it not far from a subway stop.

Balconies are everywhere. The duplex where I’m staying has 3 balconies and a deck, two for each unit. It’s a wonderful way to live. People are out on balconies wherever you go, and that makes for more inadvertent “neighborhood watch” potential. Very liveable.

This city is also incredibly walkable and bikeable. Everywhere you go, there are folks walking… even at midnight. There are also bike lanes wherever I go, and bike-share/rentals available.

I love this. It feels so much more safe than being a solitary walker when in unfamiliar territory.

I ate Persian/ Iranian food last night. It was wonderful. I had tea in glass cups as in Egypt… and two dishes made of eggplant. The one cut into a wedge was eggs and eggplant, and it was magnificent. I must look into possible recipes.

I’d love to eat at a different restaurant every day (even a different world cuisine), but since I’m here for 2 weeks that would break the bank. Food is more costly here than at home, at least at first glance. I did find a shopping center which is walking distance, and will see what their grocery store has to offer.

Restaurant foods have been pricier than home, even at restaurants rated by Urban Spoon as inexpensive. The Canadian dollar is worth $0.99 USD so the exchange is not bad, but their sales taxes are much higher than ours in Michigan.

I’ve heard at least 5 languages in a few days here. I LOVE this. The world is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people in all sorts of cultures. They get along pretty well here, and I’m digging that.

And as for speaking English… if I’m polite and apologize for not speaking French, I’m experiencing politeness. One ticket-seller at the metro/subway did have a different response (with a smile). I said “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.” He said “Why?” followed by a laugh. He said he was from the Former Yugoslavia. Then we did business… in English.

French pronunciation is hard for me, still. I’m starting to do OK with translating some signs, and did pretty well with a menu at the Persian eatery before being brought one in English.

Oh, I could talk forever! However, it’s time to return to my task at hand. See you soon!

My New Home in Paradise

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Well… that’s a little extreme for a title. Paradise for me, anyway. Here’s my new bedroom. For 2 weeks, anyway.

The Scoop

Um… I didn’t say anything about this here, before? Whoops! This shouldn’t have been a surprise to you. I dropped the ball.

However, I’ve been super busy working on a computer-consulting project out of the blue. (Yippee for work in August!) That was my “day job” at the same time I was preparing to go to Montreal for 2 weeks. Yes, Montreal!

Why?

I’ve long wished to live in another country. Not necessarily forever, but long enough to get a feel for the life there. Not be a tourist, but find my own grocery stores and poke around to see what it’s like.

Cities are heaven to me. If a city has tall buildings, a subway, art museums and ethnic food, I can’t be happier! I “collect” cities. So far, Montreal is my favorite. This is my 3rd visit.

Why now? Well, there’s relatively little work for freelance folks in August, no matter what business one might be in. When customers go on vacation, it’s quieter than quiet. I scheduled 8 private knitting sessions during one 2-week period in late July/early August, and 6 got canceled.

This time of year I can feel lonely like the “Maytag Man.” December is similar but holiday gatherings fill in the schedule then.

Parallel to that, I’ve got a lot of knitting designs that I’ve knit up but which need to be transcribed into “real” patterns. So August is the perfect month for writing. Yes?

Add this all together, and I’m on a pattern-writing retreat. Not just any patterns, but the socks I knit while on my 5 week trip to Africa in 2004-05. And a travelogue to go with them all. (Photo below was taken in northern Ethiopia, December 2004.)

An Opportunity Out of the Blue

I accidentally found out that a friend of a friend had a room to rent here for a reasonable price, in August. So here I am. It’s surreal, but it’s also true.

With a Little Help from My Friends

My friend Jane, born and raised in Ontario but a longtime resident of Michigan, took me from Lansing across the border to Sarnia, Ontario.  (Sarnia is across the water from Port Huron, Michigan… east of Flint and north of Detroit).

I stayed the night with Hedda, a music friend who lives in Sarnia. (Photos later.) She took me to the VIA rail station at 6am (ouch) and I got on a train. For about 11 hours I was on a series of passenger trains and metro/subway trains. I was dizzy all night, as though I’d been on a boat!

Getting Situated

Two photos above show my “student apartment,” my home away from home in Montreal. And a “Self-Portrait with Shadows” I took on my first walk from the subway to this house.

I’ll stay here for 2 weeks. I’m calling it a “writing retreat” but it is a bit bigger than that to my heart.

First Steps

I’ll have more details later. I’m off to find a grocery store or market by foot.

I also will take a little excursion back to the Central train station. It seems I left a shawl and small pillow on the train? And someone found it and turned it in? And a woman named Ana says she’s holding them until I come to get them?

She’s happy I got these items back. So am I. There are good people everywhere. Some are anonymous. They don’t make the news.

I will stay in touch. My job is to write, that’s my focus. You will benefit from some of that writing right here. Stay tuned?