Contact Us

The Work I Need

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part of having the life I want includes spending time creating.  I write, thus the blog, but since 1998, work in clay remains my most skilled but neglected creative outlet.  For four years, I refrained from this work, while caring for a small Botanical Garden in Coastal North Carolina.  After my return to my family, and to Maine, I sought another “full-time job.”  I missed a couple by just a hair, with prolific encouragement to apply for other positions up and coming in two organizations.  Then, I took that as a sign.  Various people had encouraged me to visit Cobscook Community Learning Center in nearby Edmunds township, just six miles away.  When I finally did, my focus changed.

In Downeast Maine, progress is by degrees.  Since I moved away from here 19 years ago, little has changed and the population increased from 350 to 487.  So when I visited the Center and imagined teaching my creative skill again, well, I enjoyed that dream.  Classes have been advertised.  As you can imagine, with a population of 487 in my town, and a Washington County population of roughly 33,000, these classes are slow to materialize.  And that is okay with me.

When I first visited the studio, there were few signs of life.  It was disheveled and lacked fine-tuned organization.  I thought it was too small for teaching classes.  There were too few wheels and a smaller, older kiln.   There were not enough shelves.  I created all manner of excuses why this would not work.  I visited a few times, cleaned and re-organized, and then sort of gave up when students did not materialize.

Then, Tim Christensen appeared.  He had been scheduled to give a pottery intensive workshop at CCLC for some time.  Tim is a devoted, highly developed artist with a profound statement regarding our disregard for the natural world, a philosophy I share.  The session was expensive for me after not having worked for months, but I received a generous scholarship from the school and decided to attend.

How can I describe what it meant to me?  There were only six students present at a time.  We varied in age, ability and goals.  Tim gleaned our skill levels and backgrounds and he taught us accordingly.  For me, two parts were key:  learning his sgraffito technique and seeing that pots can thrive without a gas kiln, and hearing how he sells work online.  He gave generously of his expertise, and he encouraged everyone.  I never heard one negative comment from him the whole weekend about ceramics or life in general.  His positivity professional wisdom made for a productive weekend and truly, it inspired me to go into high gear with my creative work.

The next week, I appeared at the studio every day, manifesting a vision of success and productivity.  In five short weeks, I created a significant volume of work.  I practiced a new, thoroughly enjoyable technique and am beginning to make it my own.  I created a website and an online store.  I tested glazes and slips and refurbished kiln shelves. Two people have spoken to me about serious interest in classes, and I sense that the more I work and model the opportunity, the more people will materialize. I have prepared the studio and written lesson plans.  Five short weeks after the workshop, I am ready to teach.  Wow.  Thank you Tim Christensen for giving so much of yourself, and for bringing me back to creative life.  I am forever grateful to you and to Cobscook Community Learning Center.  Mission accomplished for all.

 

 

Fitbit – Unsolicited, Uninvested Review

 

My weight has always fluctuated, as has my fitness level.  As part of creating the life I want, I have tried every nutrition system ever imagined, as well as just about every fitness activity, to achieve the physical me I want.  From Atkins to Ayurveda, I have been there, and from day to day I shift and can’t decide – Vegan? Vegetarian?  Juicing? Paleo?  Now, there is one easy device that can accommodate all my dietary shifts.  Today, I would like to share my current wonder possession and obsession, the FITBIT.

In 2016 I purchased a Fitbit HR, which works with an app on my cell phone to keep track of my health.  At that time, I was disappointed that there was not a Fitbit that could be worn in the water to track swimming, my favorite exercise.  Now, it does exist and as soon as I manifest my income, I am overnighting that new Fitbit!

Anyway, I wanted a device that would monitor my sleep and also my heartbeat, so I chose the HR model.  I began to watch the steps build up in the wristwatch ticker.  I loved seeing those steps pile up.  But when I eventually plugged into the phone app, that is when my efforts began to be really fun.  Following is the kind of information my Fitbit stores.

Right now it is 10:35 AM.  I have walked 1,139 steps today. .47 miles.  I have burned 738 calories and stepped up zero floors,  and my resting heart rate is 59.  I have an alarm set for 6 AM tomorrow.  All this I can see on the wristwatch.  And let me plug this sweet alarm.  The wristwatch just vibrates.  All I have to do is push a little button and it stops.  I much prefer this tactile form of waking, since I am extremely sensitive to sound and light in the morning.  I much prefer this gentle, light, localized vibration.

But later, when I turn on the phone app, in addition to all of the above, I can see MUCH more.  I can see how many hours of the day I have been active for 15 minutes or more, and how many total minutes I have been active.  I can track exercise, including adding my swimming time manually.  All of this information is also available in bar graphs that will compare today to recent days and weeks.  At the end of this article is a link to a visual of the screens on the appliance.  The graphics are colorful and simple.

For my nutritional goals, the Fitbit is a wonder.  I do have to enter information into my phone.  I can enter my current weight, and also a short-term or long-term goal weight.  I can choose a plan that will shift according to how quickly I want to change my weight.  I enter food I eat each day, and I get these wonderful little indicators through graphs and meters that show me how I am tracking.  The best part of entering food is the database in the app.  I no longer need a whole separate notebook or chart or calorie counter guide.  I can search for pear, fresh, and get an instant caloric value.  There are more name brands of manufactured food stored in the device than I have ever seen.  And changing portion sizes or calorie values is simple, and then the app adds everything and tracks everything and I see these great little visual indicators.  For water intake, I set a goal and add any glasses with the quick 8 oz button.  This part of the device is truly brilliant.  As always at this time of day, I am over budget.  I have been writing and have not started the active part of my day.   I cannot write without breakfast.  When I do start my daily activities, the device updates and I can see the number of available calories build and it is truly instantly rewarding and fun.  I even get Badges by email for special accomplishments.  The two of which I am most proud are the High Tops Award for 20,000 steps in a day, and the Redwood Forest Badge for 25 floors in a day.  It was not until I moved back to Maine from North Carolina that I began to have floors recorded in my stats.  I am usually not interested public awards, but these are private awards, and they are creative and funny.  I am not competitive with health and fitness, but if I were,  I could compete with friends and family on events and goals, and earn trophies, so that is an option.

Also, I am able to see my sleep record.  For example, last  night I was in bed from 9:59 PM to 6:26 AM.  I was awake 2 times, and restless 18 times.  I was awake or restless for a total of 39 minutes.  If I do not wear the wristwatch to bed, I can still enter sleep hours, but the other information is not recorded.

Lastly, the Fitbit uses little power and takes up little room.  I usually charge it daily when I am in the shower.  It is simply a wristwatch band, and there are also necklace versions, both in various colors.  Some are simple and some are ornate.  Mine is simple, but it is purple.   I live in a 600 square foot cabin with a partner and I appreciate small items that give me great pleasure.

Since I have been using this system in ernest, I have reached and passed my first short term goal, and have moved on to a new goal.  Right now it is time to get active.

Source: Fitbit screens charge HR – Google Search

Maple Syrup Season

Lichen Under Snow on an Older Maple Tree

Even though there is between four and six feet of snow on the ground, signs of spring exist.  After months of cold, many days dipping below zero, finally, usually in February, the temperatures will rise above freezing.  This signals the time to tap Sugar Maple Trees.  Today, Saturday February 18, 2017, my partner and I stepped into our snowshoes and we trod through the sticky warm snow to choose the trees and to place the taps.  The trees are at least ten inches in diameter.  Many are beginning to show signs of decline, with lichen attached to trunks and branches, signaling that these trees are on the declining side of their life cycle.

I carried my pruners and folding saw, a plastic garbage bag full of recycled gallon water jugs, and a shovel.  My partner carried a plastic five gallon bucket containing the drill, hammer, taps, and wire.  We would choose a tree, then I would break the trail and prune any branches that blocked easy access to the tree.  My friend followed and completed the tapping process, drilling about two inches into a tree, hammering in the tap and wiring up the jug while I cut a small hole in the top of a plastic jug, then prepped the next tree area.

Drilling a Hole for a Maple Tree Tap
Hammering a Tap into a Maple Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tiny bit of sap did fall into the jugs, confirming our timing.

Plastic Jug Wired to Maple Tree Tap

 

 

Close Up of Jug Wired to Maple Tree Tap

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is Sunday, and the weather forecast is mostly sunny with temperatures between 34 and 44 degrees F.  That means the sap will flow.  In the morning, we will attend the local Quaker Meeting, and then we will return home and start collecting sap.  We will collect it once or twice daily throughout the week, depending on the weather, and next weekend we will begin the rendering process.  That entails a long slow boil over an outdoor wood cook stove, with a lot of attention paid to the pot at the end to avoid burning the batch.  Approximately 30 gallons of sap make one gallon of maple syrup.  The price, and the flavor,  is worth every bit of the effort it takes to produce it.