Monday, July 9, 2012

Holy Bees

Summer is usually my not-dreaming time. I have two theories about that. The first is that fall-winter-spring are much darker times here in the north, and create a quieter canvas for the mind to write its stories. The other is that summer is a bit of a dream in itself; the colours are intense, the growth is prolific. Birds and animals are constantly appearing and sounding. What the winter mind needs to create as images, the summer mind finds served up externally. Those are the current theories. Who knows? It could very well be that other people experience the opposite.

This summer, even though I'm not dreaming much, I'm definitely very restless for image. I'm thinking a lot about art and meaning, and life-story, and how we talk to ourselves about ourselves and how deep a chasm lays between the story we tell ourselves and the story we actually live. I've always loved stories, and I could toss back books like a drunk on a weekend binge. But in the last year I find I'm reading a lot less, and looking for pictures a lot more. I'm noticing which images pull me hard. I'm trying to be awake to the what and the why and the when, and what story I'm telling myself about myself with the pictures and colours I surround myself with.

Something I did with my "new eyes" was to go through my fabric stash. Of course. I mean, of course, right? I'm not a draw-er or a painter. I'm a fabri-phile, and a sometimes-sewist. I rely on fabric-design artists to create my working palette for me, and then I can hack away and hopefully come up with something both useful and soul-bolstering.

Last year (or was it two years ago?) I found this bee-fabric, and I had to have some. I needed those bees. I got it, rolled around in it for a couple days, then folded it up and tucked it away. Every now and then I'd rediscover it in a rummage for something else, and I trace my fingers around a bee, and leave it again.

This spring/summer, after jumping out of that shipwreck of an acupuncture program, I was feeling altogether bruised and contused. I needed to make something. Particularly I needed to make something slowly, slowly enough that I could re-evaluate the project at every stage, and let it talk to me about what it wanted to be. I wanted to have a go at doing things just because they satisfied something in me. The tendency is to throw fabrics into a likely jumble, pick a few happy colours, and sew like a fiend until it's done. That's not a bad thing in itself, but it's more utilitarian than a balm for the soul, in terms of process. I tend to be more project oriented than process oriented. Thus the headlong rushing through every. single. moment. of my life. Yes, I get quite a lot done. But it's not a bad thing to intentionally delay every now and then. This was one of those now and then moments.

I wanted my spirit-bees.

I remember, and oh gosh this is from a loooong time ago, hearing about Sarah Ferguson's wedding dress being embroidered with bees, and that took my mind by storm for some reason. I would have been in my early teens, I suppose. (And typing that, what idea doesn't take your mind by storm when you're a teenager? It's like a 10-year multi-lobe hurricane.) That was before internet entered my life, so I tucked the information back into my head's filing cabinet somewhere, and from time to time I'd find something in a book, or hear something off-hand somewhere, and it would go into the same file.


A little bee on the fabric is shorthand for all that and more in my personal iconography, which is informed and built on the iconography of bees through history. It's awesome, and I mean that as in "inspiring awe", that we humans can tap into a deep reservoir of collective dreaming and story-telling to find our images. Sometimes I get frustrated by the seeming need to reinvent the wheel on a personal level, but when I take a step back and look at things, more often than not it's just an old story re-telling itself. It's only new to me.

I needed a new tea-cozy too. ForTOOOitus.

I had the base fabric (a Fasset that I have to keep myself from sticking in my mouth, I love it so much), and the extra fan-blades from a quilt made last year. I also found the buttons in my stash, purchased back in the day when I was still able to lie to myself convincingly enough that I actually believed I was going to sew garments. Probably. I don't really remember buying them, but there they were. I wanted some embroidery on this one, and I didn't have any, so I bought a few skeins of that, and a stained (tea-stained, so it's been broken to the task) cotton doily from the thrift shop. The inside lining is cut from an old massage-sheet.

It's done now. Every day I run my hands and eyes over it and get my fix of colour and texture and satisfaction at having made something that I find both beautiful and useful.

I've made myself an icon.I don't know what I need these bees for, but I can feel the rightness of it, and how they're shaping something inside of me, and pulling at threads of consciousness.

When it's not too hot, I light a beeswax candle in the morning while I drink my honeyed tea and contemplate those bees. If I was really motivated I'd go sit by the raspberry bushes with the whole kit and listen to the bees too. I can do without the stinging, mind you. That's a sensory experience I can remember clearly enough without having to re-enact it.


CG said...

I can find zero sources for this at the moment, but somewhere in my head is the number 16 -- honey bees have 16 brain cells. 16 cells, yet they can dance out directions, gather propolis that inhibits fungus, so many other things. So when I think of bees, I think of this. I think of how one bee is not really "the" animal, but the hive is. I also think of $12/quart for a family business.

Madcap said...

More than 16, according to this article. But still, amazing. And for me too, the fact that the individual bee is in herself really just a cell of the larger organism of the hive, that's worth some quiet time.

sledpress said...

Someone in our line of work will eventually have to write a short pamphlet titled "Uses for old massage-sheets." Toss for it?

Madcap said...

Collaborative effort, I think. Actually, those sheets drive me nuts. Eventually they look so "camo" that I can't really have them on the table anymore without cringing, but the fabric itself is still full. Sometimes when I know I've got a farmer or a tradesman coming straight after work I'll throw them down in order to save the "good" ones, but I've had that backfire once or twice when the spouse showed up for the appointment because the other party was delayed for some reason.

Yeah, we need a pamphlet. A person can only make so many tea-cozies.

WILDSIDE said...

Just a quick note to say hello!

Busy as bees?!?!?

Madcap said...

Hello hello! Not busy as bees today, or this month. Torporous. It's lovely. I'll be back at it hardcore in September.

arcolaura said...

I recently spent a whole day (well, parts of two days, but it totalled a full day of waking hours) making something, just because I needed to make it. Incredible shifts I have felt since then. It could be that both the making and the shifts arose from a new intention to be intentional, but I believe there was something about the making itself. I will post a picture soon, but first I need to make another one or two.

Madcap said...

I look forward to seeing it, Laura. Making can be a sacrament.

clairesgarden said...

love the colours!! I just packed up my tea-pots to go into storage, i just realised the cosy covers haven't been packed... i'll check for them next visit.
i really like tea made in a pot.

Madcap said...

Thanks Claire! I much prefer tea from a pot, I never drink it any other way. Unless it's ice-tea from a mix... but that's a soft-drink. A different animal entirely!