Honey Stories

 

Well, honey, here are some stories. I have told some to the honey man at the farmer’s market, and it always surprises me that the various people there have not heard them.

Honey is used for a variety of purposes. For example, it is good for burns. It soothes the burn and helps it heal. My mother used to make hot lemon and honey for us when we had colds. It has many other uses, but mostly it just tastes good.

amphoraMost people have heard of honey being found in sealed amphora in ancient shipwrecks. Amazingly, the honey was still good.

I went to Kiev some years ago for a wedding and at one point a few of us were walking around a tourist hall where people were selling handmade items and other things, including honey. My friend was Turkish and in Turkey all the honey is liquid. The honey I bought was creamy. She told me it was not any good because it was not liquid. Actually, it was better because I could travel back to Turkey with it in my bag. Liquid honey would have been asking for a sticky situation. I was struck that she had probably never heard the ancient shipwreck story, even though parts of Turkey are actually ancient Greece, not to mention a host of other cultures. All of whom probably used honey.

rhodoIn fact in Turkey there are stories about the honey from a certain place on the Black Sea. In general the Karadeniz is known for its honey, as well as cheese, hazelnuts and tea. Apparently this honey is from rhododendron. It has a sort of hallucinogenic effect on those who eat the honey. I never tried any.

 

 

 

IMG_5022I learned to like comb honey (bal)  in Turkey. One spreads it on toast like regular honey, only it is a chewier. Some people suck the honey out to chew the wax. The last time I bought comb honey in Turkey, I bought it in this can. It cost about $30. Here the same amount would probably be three times that amount.

 

 

poison oakWhen I lived in rural Oregon, I sometimes went to a honey man way out in the undulating farmlands leading to the coastal range. He was probably in his 70s and had a younger indigenous wife. He had wildflower honey and also specialized in poison oak honey for loggers. Poison oak is an itchy undergrowth with yellow flowers. The bees would make honey from those flowers, but not very much of it. The honey man let me taste it– it was full of tannic acid so tasted like very sweet tea. He would not sell me any, however, as the loggers ate the honey to help build up resistance to the poison oak.

IMG_5019When I was growing up we ate clover honey. The creamy honey came in these honey cans. Now from the honey man I can get clover honey, buckwheat honey, and even blueberry honey, which does indeed have a hint of blueberry in its flavour. I can also get pollen and comb honey.

So, a few sweet stories for you about the not so mundane honey.

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Turkish Table Cloths

 

Actually, this is not about table cloths per se. Some years ago I owned a small apartment in Istanbul which I rented to a Kurdish Turkish man for a few months. Memet had had the idea of opening a carpet store that would also include village cloths. He had visited the villages in Erzurum, where he was from. He would arrive with machine made carpets and trade for small carpets and embroidered cloths. Among these were cloths that were originally used to hang in front of the shelves where clothes were kept. These cloths would keep the dust out and also decorate the space. Memet ultimately did not open a store and so he sold me some of the small carpets and the cloths at a very good price.

As an aside, Memet was a very interesting person. He was hard of hearing, but he spoke Kurdish, Turkish, German, English, Farsi, and Arabic. For that reason he often worked with film crews in the turbulent Southeast of Turkey, Iran, and Syria. One time he arrived at my cafe with a film crew. They were doing what they called a love story. A young Peace Corps volunteer in Iran had had an affair with a young Iranian man, a dangerous proposition in rural areas, as homosexuality was forbidden. However, Memet told me that the young Iranian man had basically been seduced by the Peace Corps guy, so it was not actually a love story.

Since the cloths had mostly been nailed to the shelves, they were a little damaged. I hemmed them all and started to use them as table cloths. These were especially useful in my cafe. I also use a few of them as curtains with those little clip on rings.

 

I love the fact that these have unknown stories with them. I think some were made by very young girls. One has her name on it and she has also embroidered ‘kadesim Memet’ — Memet is my brother.

Another says ‘yapan S’.

Some are done on embroidery cloth and others are done on old sheets. Some of them were probably done from patterns and a few are original.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lace of varying quality is sewn onto some of  them and others are bordered with an embroidered strip. One has a rust stain and one has a small blob of industrial green paint on it, which  makes them think of someone paining a green room. I think some of these were done for a hope chest and I am sure all of them were used. These people were poor mountain folks and I am sure they used everything they could.

 

Some of these are for sale if they strike your fancy. I have a lot and I certainly don’t need them all. My stories with them are short and I hope others enjoy the colours and the work as much as I do.

Making art with yarn and other media

 

Because I am not a painter or photographer or sculptor, I often feel like I have to explain my art. Some dismiss what I do as arts and crafts. No, this is art as much as anything.

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one of my soft baskets and a button landscape

I use different media from many other artists, but it is not to be dismissed as arts and crafts. However, I believe much of those genres are beginning be looked at as a different kind of art. I think these arts are still considered ‘lower’ because it is traditionally women who do them and they tend to fade away unknown (in mainstream art too). I suspect that photography went through a similar need as some photography did indeed become art.

Humans and some animals create with what is available. For me, what is available includes fabric, yarn, thread, buttons, random things like tiny figures or shark vertebrae, coins, keys, hardware. Of course I shop at Value Village and the Grandmother to Grandmother sale, among other places. Some people give me things. In fact, it all started with a gift of three bags of tapestry yarn and then a metre of aida cloth. In the past I followed directions or did cross-stitch kits. However, now I was on my own and off I went.

IMG_3038My small living room has become my studio. I sit in my comfortable chair by the window going stitch by stitch as I have TED talks or movies going on my laptop. Instead of paint drops, there are bits of thread inadvertently tracked all over the house. I live alone, so I can tolerate the bits for a little while.

Another medium I often use is buttons. Buttons may seem humdrum but they can be a visual and tactile medium to work with. Thye come in different hues, they vary greatly in size within a limited spectrum, they are made of different materials and styles, and especially if they are in grandma’s button box, they may remind us of certain times. I have made complete pictures with them and I often use them as additional parts of a piece.

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“Second strong”  all the buttons already had bits of thread attached from their previous uses

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Ideas flow out of me, not only for shape, but also colour or texture. If I am already working on something else, I may jot down the name or phrase I was thinking of or do a little sketch. If I have laid something out (for example with buttons), I take a photo of it. I may change it anyway, but I have a guide. In the past I did not sketch anything on the fabric. Especially the bright landscape gardens were done organically from the water to the sky. And of course the geometric ones are often decided by how much of a colour I have. Once I decide a colour, I am committed because I do not aitch over and rarely tear out. Also, although my stitchery is limited to the sort of geometry of the cloth (the stitches go on an angle), I am learning to let the colours flow. It is not like the more physical movement of painting, particularly since it is stitch by stitch, but when I am doing a block of colour, I can go with it.

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Japanese daruma, Zen monk

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Afghan headpiece  made into a hanging

 

 

My background is very different, which affects the ideas that do come out. I have done some Turkish patterns andIMG_3696.JPGd a couple of Japanese ones (cultural appropriation alert). Some of the pieces are inspired by the art around me, a very common theme here in Ontario. Sometimes I feel like I am turning my environment into stitchery. I have done the oak tree in front, the first snow, the view of the column outside my window. I have made kind of fairy landscapes. Some are based on a real thing, such as a butterfly, a tiny figurine, my young face.

 

Recently I got into a heart metaphor fixation and made several pieces based on things we say – half hearted, empty heart, black heart, etc. it is actually amazing to see how many metaphors we use with our hearts. When I tell people what I am working on, they add more. Sometimes I have to explain (for example the heart attack). I think about my own heart as I make them, as I have experienced most of these metaphors.  Above you can see ‘Stalwart Heart’, ‘Heart Burn’, ‘Purple Heart’, ‘Empty Heart’, ‘Heart on Sleeve’, and ‘Pure Heart.’  And there are more!

IMG_4534At the same time, I have been making what I call fancies. They incorporate old handkerchiefs and some tatting I found in with some thread. They are more delicate than my normal stitcheries.

IMG_4489I am naturally a thrifty person and I hate to waste things. I recycle and compost and pass on. So I also use up colours and the little end bits of fabric. Those become necklaces, bandeaux (like bracelets), wee pieces or window decorations, pins. I wear a bandeau most days and I love the softness of it. One person bought my favourite necklace right off my neck! The final little bits and the yarn labels I save to make a palette, like painters often do when their palette is full. It is beautiful because of where the painter used these particular colours. Even the very last little bits of thread charmingly tracked through the house get composted when I empty my vacuum cleaner.

Framing is an issue. Traditional frames make a piece more officially ‘art’. The woman at the framing shop is good-natured about stretching my pieces to fit a frame, but in general, it is a rather expensive way to outline my pieces. As a result, for hanging pieces I often use fabric to frame them, with a dowel to hang them from. I also frame seat pads and pillow covers. It fits better.

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So yes, I can say I am an artist. People are not used to fibre art, I think, and the style and intent are different. My pieces are unique and I incorporate many ‘found’ things. I want my work to be touched, because it is not only the colour to be seen, but often the texture to be touched. Most things can even be gently washed.

So there it is. See, touch, wear, or use one of my pieces today!

Journalling

Remember when journalling was a thing some years ago? At the time I had already been writing in my books since I was 14. I was well into it by then. And ‘guided’ journalling in groups was not for me.

I don’t write in my journal every jour. I write when I am wrestling with something or when I am bored.  Of course I have written a lot about love, especially love affairs. And self-love and love for my kids. Career decisions. Moves, locally or internationally (the U.S., Japan, and Turkey). Those are some things I wrestled about. I wrote about adventures, though less introspective writing was mostly composed on a computer to report to others.

Sometimes writing spurs me to think of more immediate, concrete things, which I then brainstorm. The last pages of my books are usually gone because I have used them for lists.

When I was young (20s and 30s) I carried my journal in my bag and would sit in a cafe and write in it. I was cool, man. This was mostly in Corvallis or Eugene, Oregon It gave me something to do and showed that I had a legitimacy for being there. It wasn’t a time for great introspective writing. That I did at home.

Now I write in my journals when I am alone. Sometimes I write when I am lonely. I often write when I am troubled or bored (usually not both at once). There is something about putting words on paper, even if they are becoming more illegible as I get older. It’s not necessarily creative writing, though sometime there is a good turn of phrase. It is definitely stream of consciousness, though I try to use paragraphs. I write in the colour of the time, sometimes in pencil. I like hard bound books, though the one I am writing in now is softer. I got it because it says things like ‘you will go far’ (check) and it was a ‘Molly & Rex’ journal. My journals these years are a far cry from the blue student notebooks I started out with. It often takes a few years to work through an empty journal, so I want the book to be something I like.

My handwriting has indeed gotten atrocious, as my mother’s did and my grandmothers’ when they were quite old. But it is not meant to be read by anyone else but me. I told my daughter years ago that she could read them or throw them out, so perhaps there may be a reader, but highly doubtful.

The box of old journals is in the back of a cupboard. A few years ago in a frenzy of downsizing, I took out the loose things in them and recycled them, something I probably regret. My first ex-husband actually threw away ‘our’ two years of journals. They were in a box by the door when I was collecting my stuff, having just left him. He was a Viet Nam draft dodger from Wichita Kansas and was into some weird ‘guru’ and sent him money (of course). He kept wanting me to look like his sister, who had been in a beauty contest. Once he was haranguing me (in winter!) about shaving my legs and I threw the razor at him. So that was mostly what those journals were about.

It used to be that a lot of people kept journals. Now they post comments (as do I) on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. Obviously a lot of mean-spirited people don’t bother to wrestle with their demons in private; I recommend journalling. My grandmother, Julia, wrote a retrospective journal when she was old. I used it as a basis for a book about her for my family. My other grandmother was given a book to write in when she was old, but it was more of a log. One did not share one’s inner feelings or thoughts, I suspect. My father did not keep a journal at all, but I found some memoirs, so those are going into the Farky stories subject to great editing. Perhaps sometime I will tell my own story from my journals.

Writing assumes a reader, but it is not clear who the reader of my journals would be. My writing is for getting more clarity in my thoughts and feelings, sharing with the ether. I would be appalled if someone else read my journals now. However, after I am dead, I don’t care. Whether or not I ever read my own journals again, I don’t know. In the meantime, I continue to fill my books for myself.

Facebook and me

I read Facebook every morning and off and on throughout the day if I am at home. It is the equivalent for me of reading the morning newspaper. I can read the ‘real’ news from Al Jazeera or Wall Street Journal or CBC, among others. In fact, some of my Facebook friends are journalists (Mitch Potter, Scott Peterson, Hugh Pope, for example), so I get to read their pieces hot off the press. Many of my Facebook friends share interesting things they have found and some I share on. Like in the newspaper, I skip lots of junk.

We tend to live with others like us, a trend that is bemoaned by some, understandably. Thus my Facebook friends for the most part have similar thinking on many topics and in a variety of languages– Turkish, Italian, French, English. These may be people who share thoughts but they are also a motley crew from a variety of age groups and cultures. I am lucky in how rich even these surface friends are.

Some people sneer at the notion of Facebook friends, but I think it reflects how we relate to people in physical life. We have a lot of acquaintances and a few friends. We interact on Facebook more with our ‘real’ friends. We stop to look at their family or travel photos. With other friends or closer acquaintances we may share articles or videos or just skip what they have posted.

Related to that is the fact that now that I live in a small town, my Facebook friends here are mostly acquaintances and most of them know each other. Many of them have lived here all their lives or most of their lives. Living in other countries (except perhaps for the U.S.) is not a part of their consciousness or experience, just as living in one place all my life is not part of mine. They often share different things, from how they feel to local issues. I feel like I have two audiences for my posts, the local one and the global one. Some things I share to educate the local one and some I share to show my international friends where I am and what I am doing.

I like that we can share photos on Facebook. People can look at them or not. I remember the days of yawning through slide shows of someone’s trip to somewhere or having to sit down while the person showed me her photo album, complete with running commentary. That is fun to do sometimes, but on Facebook I can see the photos on my own time and comment if I am so moved.

Memory pages are a new feature that is kind of interesting. I look to see what I have posted in that past and truthfully it makes me a little homesick for my cafe. I have also observed that the comments we post are different now. In the past there may have been a comment on the weather or on how I felt, but it seems people don’t do that so much anymore. There are more comments on pieces we share and less on how we feel.

One of my enjoyments if not meditation is the games on Facebook They generally involve manipulating pieces to solve place puzzles. The bubble ones also involve aiming. They keep my logic skills honed is my current excuse. Sometimes I am right into the game but many times I am also ruminating on something else at the same time.

When I had my cafe, Facebook was an integral part of my advertising. I made my Molly’s Cafe page and group and I used those to invite people to events (poetry readings, music, dinners, for example). Then I could also share photos after the events.

I know a lot of people my age who eschew Facebook They are afraid it will harvest their personal information (possible, but really, how special is their personal data?) and they have heard bad things about it. I report to my ‘real’ friends in person what I have learned from the new on Facebook, but they are not tempted.

So yes, I like Facebook. I have some real friends and some FB friends on it that I may or may not interact with. Mostly it helps keep me in touch with the world far and near. It’s pretty amazing considering I am in the last generation that used only snail mail and phone calls to stay in touch.

A Trip to the Police Station in Istanbul

This is the first of many visits I made to the police in Istanbul.  This station has since been remodelled and is quite nice.  The police have not changed…

Nov. 2002

The legal troubles with my house have spilled over to my contractor, Cevdet, as the landlady has filed a complaint against him, saying he did not spend the money on the house. Since he had refused to give his address to her lawyer, the papers had to be served at the police station. They called him and told him to pick them up. That was a Friday. On the Monday I went with him to be a witness.

The police station in Beyoglu is in a side street off a side street. It is housed in what was once probably a very elegant apartment house. We had to go up marble stairs that were very worn from the many years of traffic. The bureau we went into was probably someone’s home at one time. The ceilings were high, and there were many doors leading off the corridors. The rooms had been painted in the past few years, a not too nasty yellow, but they had probably not been cleaned in quite some time. There were bits of paper on the floor and near the doors there were trampled dust bunnies, like old lint. The cabinets were old and some had broken doors. The desks were crammed together, like in most government offices I have been in. The policeman who took our statement—well, Cevdet’s actually—used a manual typewriter, although there were a few old computers in use in the other office. The policeman we dealt with shared an office with two other officers, with two more in an adjoining room. We were told to wait in that room for a while as he finished up with another “customer”. As we waited, one officer was doing something on the computer—I figured he was playing a game—and the other was reading the newspaper. This is very common in Turkey. It seems to me that in most workplaces in North America, it is frowned upon to be seen reading the paper while on the job. Here it is normal. I suppose the police in particular need to keep up with current events.

Finally we were called into the first room. The officer we dealt with was probably in his forties, and if we hadn’t been in Turkey, he could have been taken for an Irish cop. He was somewhat overweight, with graying hair, glasses, and a stern but still somewhat kind demeanor. Cevdet explained the situation and explained why I was there. The officer asked if I spoke Turkish and, like many people do around foreigners, acted as it I were perhaps a little simple. We established that I was an English teacher and so of course he had to ask about lessons for his son. I assured him that if his son came in and talked to me we could work out a special price for him. Once he had taken the bulk of Cevdet’s statement, he showed Cevdet a piece of blank paper and sent him out to the stationery store to buy a ream of it. This apparently was a kind of “gift” or service for the officer to look kindly on the case. While Cevdet was gone, the policeman asked me if I would talk to his university student son on the phone and proceeded to get him on the line. Actually, his son spoke fairly good English, though his proud father seemed intent on getting him into a course. He was pleased when I told him his son spoke English pretty well.

While I was waiting in the office, there was a disturbance downstairs. A woman was yelling and screaming, though I could not make out if she was the culprit or the victim. No one in the office I was in batted an eyelash. I suppose they are used to it. A few other men wandered in and out, some in civilian clothing. One was joking with them and called one a maniac. I was a little surprised that he was so casual with them until he wandered back in in police uniform.

In general the policemen were a little bemused at having a foreign woman sitting in their midst. They were brusque, but by the time we left, “our” officer was nice to both of us and I told him to send his son to talk to me. The report he typed up so quickly was going to be sent to a sort of lower judge, and hopefully it will be resolved favourably. It was an interesting visit to the police bureaucracy and hopefully all will be well.

My creation story

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sampler by my mother, Dorothy Joyce Stone Farquharson

My grandmothers and my mother made things and so do I. For the most part, they made things according to directions. So did I. However, now I do stitcheries that come out of my head and as I make them, I often think about what I am doing and why.

First, why? Because I can. Since I am retired, I have the time to do what I want and getting into stitches is what I want to do. It is relaxing, as I generally do it with a movie going on my laptop. It is rewarding because I see what I have done, in contrast to much of my professional work, which was much less visible. Frankly, I am a bit obsessed with making these pieces. I literally cannot go a day without working on something.

How is more complicated, of course. For the stitchery pieces, I have learned to make a border first, and sometimes I even measure it to fit a frame. Or not. I usually start from the bottom and work up, making it up as I go. I don’t draw a design, though I might have one vaguely in mind. Since I use fabric that is meant to be for cross-stitch or tapestry, I usually end up with shapes that are based on the geometry of angles– squares, triangles, straight lines. Even the round parts are a little angular.

The colours I use are determined by a few factors. One is what I am trying to represent. Obviously I use blue hues for water and sky, greens for trees and bushes, many colours for flowers. How much of a colour I use is determined by how much of it I have. Sometimes I am using up colours, which ends up in a more shaded area. Sometimes I have a lot of a colour, so I try to come up with ideas to use it (especially red, as I don’t care for red but ended up having a lot of it). And of course once I have used one colour, I have to decide what other colours will go with it. I like playing with the colours. What goes with what? If I know I will be using several shades, how should I do it? I prefer vibrant colours, but I use everything.

Some of the embroidery thread was my grandmother’s, so that thread is decades old. My sister has some beautiful pieces that Marney did probably in the early 1900s. Some of the thread is left from some of the projects I have made, such as the one for Meadow and the similar style one for me. And of course there have been other projects. I also buy bags of thread from Value Village, some of which is also quite old, judging by the labels with prices as well as the brands. I like that the thread is being used, especially since I doubt there is anyone in my family who would be interested in using it. I am using it up.

One of the things I have noticed about the art I see here in Ontario is that it is very much based on nature. Frank Carmichael, one of the Group of Seven, was born in Orillia, and like the other members, he focussed a lot on the wild Canadian landscape. I would say that the ideas I come up with are partly inspired by the beautiful river my sister lives on, where I have stayed for weeks at a time. My version of nature is more impressionistic, as I can’t draw a ‘real’ thing to save my life.

I also realized that the person looking at my pieces has to look at them closely. Recently an artist I met look cursorily at a piece and said ‘I see a tree.’ Well, there was much more than a tree! The flowers and water depths and sky shadations are also there, sometimes dominated by a tree or two. My pieces remind me of some of my grandmother’s garden embroideries– one has to look closely to see the different stitches.

In the past, I followed directions for pieces I made. Some were from kits, which provided the yarn or thread and even needles, along with a grid and colour scheme. My first counted cross-stitch I made for my daughter when she was a Rose Princess in Portland, Oregon in 1995. It took me more than a year to complete. Then my friend Nancy came across a pattern in the same line, so she gave that to me for my 50th birthday. I then had to go in search of the required embroidery floss, which I did with Meadow on a trip to Portland. That one took eight months of off times from grading papers at Koc University. My friends would drop by and I would show them my progress. It went from being fairly unrecognizable to, oh there is a lady and there is the garden. Another friend gave me a gold nazar to hide in the garden. Another piece I still have (the others I gave away) is from a book I found. Again I had to go in search of the thread for it. It is full of mistakes, of course, but only I can see them and now I don’t even look.

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I have also made some pieces from buttons. Some people look at them and exclaim, “Oh my god, you sewed all those buttons?!” Well, yes. Sewing buttons is not so hard, though it seems to have become a lost art. Again, I use the buttons to make a picture. I have buttons that were in my mother’s button box and some I found recently at VV obviously came from a button box, as the buttons were quite old.

Of course I knit and crochet, though I am not that good at it, truthfully. However, I have made some bags that I like and I made some things for my grandson that I think my daughter did not like that much. In fact, when I went to her baby shower, I was the only one that had made something by hand.

Ah, mistakes. I think mistakes made a piece more individual. I have a male friend who does cross-stitch and the back is as clean as the front. There is a kind of Turkish work that is absolutely reversible. Not mine! The back is a mess, as I figure no one will look at it. Sometimes I make mistakes in stitching or colours or direction that are too far gone to undo, so I leave them. They add character. Obviously I am not a perfectionist. I have some Turkish village pieces that have mistakes in them and I think they add to the individuality and character of the pieces.

Adult colouring books are the rage now, especially among aging baby boomers. Actually, my grandmother, Marney, coloured in her adult colouring book in the late 1970s, so they are not such a new thing. I have seen articles that discuss how they help people keep their minds sharp. I joke that my stitchery is my version of an adult colouring book, so inshallah my mind will stay relatively sharp as a result. My eyes are another matter. One of these days the stitches will be too small and I will have to move on to something else. That is what my mother did, until she could not do any work due to arthritis and then Parkinson’s. In fact, I have started to make some pieces using larger mesh with yarn.

Whatever the case may be, I love using colours and I hope other people like my work too. I do it for me, but I like to share the stories that go with it.