First things first… I know you’re dying to know if I have continued my “workout” routine, which I posted about on Tuesday. Thanks to all who laughed along with me on that. I put the word workout in quotes because is it really a “workout” when it’s just for 10 minutes? I’m going to say YES! And yes, I have. Every single muscle in my body aches. How is that even possible after just 10 minutes? Seriously. What have I been doing for the last two years? Oh, right. NOT exercising. At all. So there’s that.
Next up: France!! I’m starting to get seriously excited, which is saying a lot because I was already excited before, but now I’m in a kind of twilight zone of over the top excitement.
The Chateau where I will be staying for two weeks.
There’s still lots of things to do, figure out what I’m taking, pack, figure out how I’m going to fit in a couple changes of clothes amongst all my stitching stuff, get some Euros. I’ve got packages to mail to people who’ve enrolled in various workshops. By the way, The Improvisational Stitching Workshop only has ONE spot left, so if you’re thinking about enrolling, do, before it’s sold out. And the upcoming Stitch Along has only a couple spots left as well. That’s the one where we use my improvisational stitching techniques with creating buttons of all kinds and adding them. I’m just starting to learn how to make Zwirnknopf and Death’s Head buttons to add to the Dorset Buttons and will be teaching both as well! Who knew buttons could be SO much fun?!
Combining Improvisational Stitching with Button Making!
This is an example of a Zwirnknopf Button.
I haven’t attempted a Death’s Head button, but will be learning how. All of these various things are things I’ll be bringing with me to France to practice and play with. And then there’s the big piece which I’ll be layering and painting on.
Did I mention that I’m going to be visiting the Catacombs in Paris? Now I don’t remember ever hearing about the Catacombs when I was living in London and visiting Paris more frequently, but something popped up about them while I was looking for thread shops that might be still open, and I thought – what? Catacombs? I’m all in! So I promptly booked a tour of them for the second day that I’m there. Death’s Head buttons, catacombs… I’m noticing a theme here.
And then there’s the Aiguille en Fête which will, miraculously, be going on JUST as I’m there. Aiguille en Fete basically translates to Needle Party and there will be all kinds of exhibits, demonstrations of thread, fiber art, etc. I am thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. Beyond thrilled. Pretty much beside myself with excitement. AND where ever and whenever possible I’ll be shooting video, recording and posting back to my Patrons, in my FB group and on my Youtube Channel. I’ll be busy!
First things first… Pat Pauly! I just posted my interview with Pat Pauly on my YouTube channel. For those of you who may not be familiar with Pat, she is a brilliant, multi-talented artist, who also hand paints and dyes fabrics that she sells on her website, is a sought after teacher and does the most beautiful art quilts.
Pat’s hand dyed linens are what I’ve been using exclusively for my latest improvisational stitching pieces. They are unlike, and far superior to anything I’ve found anywhere else and are endlessly inspiring.
My improvisational stitching using Pat Pauly’s hand dyed linens.
Improvisational Stitching piece using Pat Pauly’s hand dyed linens and inspired by my Africa trip.
If these pieces are interesting to you, you should consider enrolling in my Improvisational Stitching Class, which meets for 5 consecutive Saturdays beginning Saturday, September 25th. In this workshop I cover the elements of design, use of color, incorporating other elements into the background, using things that inspire us and making them apart of our work, creating abstract as well as representational elements into a piece, finding which threads and stitches to use to create different effects and so much more.
In the afternoon after our first day of gorilla trekking, I went on a little river trip in a fiber glass canoe with Kingfisher Journeys down the Mukungwa River with the most wonderful guide, Eloi. The photo below is of Simba, our driver and guide while in Rwanda, who was amazing, and Eloi who works for Kingfisher Journeys. If you’re trekking with the gorillas, this is such a fantastic thing to do in the afternoon. I highly recommend it and Eloi is terrific, lots of fun and very knowledgeable!
It was a magical way to spend a few hours just as the sun began to set. The abundance of bird life was staggering. I saw a grey heron, white egret, spoonbill, Ibis and Hadeda Ibis as well as dozens and dozens of other birds. I’ve never been much of a “birder” but this trip was an amazing experience; I loved every minute of it.
Okay, first things first. My computer crashed on the 3rd day of our trip. As in blank screen, nothing working, enter password, little wheel spins around, weird lights flashing in the upper left corner and then back to asking for my password screen. I don’t know if it’s just run the course of its computer life or if the brown-outs caused it to malfunction, this is obviously not my language or within my skill set to parse. Coupled with the iffy wi-fi and after trying a number of things, I finally gave up. That was what seems like weeks ago, but actually was on August 17th or was it the 18th? It’s impossible to know because each day has been so packed with adventures that it feels like years and at the same time, just seconds all at once.
So I’m on my husband’s computer writing this post, having finally contacted my friend and the person who pulled this site together and made it actually work, our tech guru, Kai of Hostingforwriters.com. She’s amazing, especially when it comes to all of this stuff, as well as being an all around lovely, kind, thoughtful human being, who also happens to be a very talented writer! Thank you Kai!!
So here we are, thanks to Kai, and I’m finally writing a blog post, way overdue. So where was I? Right. Gorillas! As in these amazing creatures.
Nothing can describe the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals in their own habitat. All money collected from the gorilla treks in Rwanda go back to protecting the gorilla population, the community, and education. For example, former poachers become porters and protectors through tourism dollars.
Once I have been able to figure out (if I can) how to log into my youtube account, all passwords were lost due to my computer crashing, I will post videos. In the meantime a little visit with the gorillas in photographs, which does not do them justice, but is better than nothing.
While trekking with the gorillas we stayed at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge set in the Virunga Mountains. Sabyinyo is also the name of the oldest volcano that looms above the mist and low laying clouds and means “tooth.”
It’s impossible not to contemplate the genocide that ravaged this country, when more than one million people were massacred in 100 days. Think about that. Resulting in a collective trauma that is still felt by so many to this day. It was a brutal time demonstrating the worst aspects of colonialism and the racism that came hand in hand, a government that manipulated its people into seeing each other as enemies, and a world that refused to acknowledge the warnings and reports from so many.
Rwanda. (If you’d like to watch the youtube video I made covering the first few days of our trip, you can do so below.)
A fertile land where the rains allow crops to flourish, yet reveals the bones from those who were systematically and viscously slaughtered and then dumped into shallow graves. So many over the age of 30 have horrifying stories to tell.
And yet to travel in Rwanda today is to be greeted by waving children yelling “hello!” and “welcome!” teenagers eager to practice their English, and adults who do not show, at least not outwardly, any malice towards the tourists coming from countries that turned their backs on them, and allowed the killings to continue.
In fact, the country teaches the importance of kindness, reconciliation, forgiveness and how everyone prospers as a result. There are large posters and billboards everywhere encouraging exactly this.
And while coffee and tea are the country’s largest export, it’s the chance to catch a glimpse of the gorillas, who live mainly in a mountainous region among volcanoes shrouded by wisps of clouds, that draw many of the tourists.
Gorilla conservation, transforming poachers into porters, convincing the local population that their lives can and will improve if they do not encroach upon the gorilla population, but instead protect them, has changed lives.
Compassion. Kindness. Caring for others. Being a good person.
“We are gathered here to remember those who lost their lives in the Genocide and comfort those who survived.
“As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit, to which we owe the survival and renewal of our country.
“To our parents, children, brothers, and sisters who survived — to Rwandans who defied the call to genocide and to those who give voice to their remorse — it is you who bear the burden of our history.
“We have pursued justice and reconciliation as best we could. But it does not restore what we lost.
“Time and again these past twenty years, Rwandans have given of themselves. You have stood before the community to bear witness and listened to others do the same. You have taken responsibility and you have forgiven.
“Your sacrifices are a gift to the nation. They are the seed from which the new Rwanda grows. Thank you for allowing your humanity and patriotism to prevail over your grief and loss.”
Paul Kagame: President of Rwanda at the 20th Commemoration of Genocide Against the Tutsi
When COVID hit New York City over a year ago now, death was no longer an abstract idea. People we knew were getting really, really sick, a few of them died, a few are still not 100%. When the mobil morgue parked just blocks away from our building to handle the overflow of dead bodies, it marked a turning point for me. This wasn’t some bit of horrifying news that I read or heard about, this was happening and it was happening all around me. At the time I was just starting my YouTube Channel and it hadn’t occurred to me to video tape the empty streets, void of cars and humans. I wish I had, but I didn’t.
Once we had a vaccine and my entire family had been vaccinated, I decided it would be a good time to visit my mother and sister, neither of whom I’d seen in almost two years. It was wonderful to see them after so long. And of course there was the added benefit of being surrounded by dogs…
with lots of great places to take a little walk…
Death brings perspective. None of us are getting out of here alive. Our time is short and it seems to get shorter the closer to the end we get. All the more reason to enjoy things like this bee.