Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I'm Back! With A Different Monarch :)
No, not my favourite Blackwork project and the focus of my current WIP Monarch Stitching Tools, but the project namesake :) This is actually the very first time that I'd ever managed to take a photo of a butterfly with its wings fully spread. Some people do so very easily, but mine always turn out with the wings half-closed, or an antenna off-tilt, or the subject flitting away altogether! This picture is a few years old now, and taken with a very basic digital camera (oh, how far that technology has come!), so the colours are a bit dull, but I'm still inordinately proud of it, lol.
What brought this to mind now?, you might very well ask. My trip home, from which I've recently returned, to visit my Grandparents, and where I made many happy trips to the very beach where I took this photograph, lo at least five years ago :)
It actually was a bit sad, for although it is very late in the season, that area is usually all a-twitter with flutterbys (as they used to be reasonably named before a long-past person mangled the pronounciation to the curious illogical reverse we have today). There are bright yellow ones, and etheral white ones, and tiny orange-ish moths, but the Kings and Queens among them are the lovely red-and-black Monarchs, with their greater wingspan and a sort of characteristic nobility to their flight.
It's very hard to describe if you haven't seen it yourself, but there is a sort of ponderous weight, an extra elegance or grace, to the way that the Monarchs slowly settle on a target, lessening the fanning their wings on their approach, and then open themselves fully to soak up the sun. When they have decided that they have had their fill of that plant, they then repeat the slow balletic touch-down in reverse, and raise themselves up to flit leisurely from bright purple thistle to thistle, sipping at the nectar before fluttering up again. When they decide to end their meal, they lift up gradually, flying faster, and climbing higher and higher in the sky in wide lazy circles, inscribing intricate curliques in the air with their distinctively coloured wings. It is a most lovely sight to witness.
Monarchs do love wildflowers, of course. Daisies especially :) They are frequent visitors to my Grandmother's gardens, where a colourful riot of wild flowers are deliberately encouraged to flourish amongst the cultivated plants. Sometimes, if I am especially quiet and careful, I can get near to a flower and put my index finger alongside the petals where a Monarch is feeding, and if I hold very still, the butterfly will climb atop my finger and then my hand, where it flaps its wings happily for a while before flitting to another flower nearby or fluttering up into the sky. The smaller butterflies do not behave so regally, and obviously think themselves much too busy flying about to stop for a while and sun themselves on a friendly hand.
But Monarchs have a weakness for the humble purple thistle. The thistle is not an especially pretty flower. It is gangly and shoots up tall, with dark spiky leaves and sharp thorns. Even the cusp of the flower head is lethally laced with thin little sharp slivers as fine as human hair that can work their way into human skin like wooden splinters, where they are equally painful if left to fester. It is not a friendly flower; all its aspect seems inclined towards the defensive. Its only invitation comes in the form of the bright pink-purple needle-shaped petals that grow up from its crown.
These petals are mutlitude, but they are small and curled in on themselves. Each forms a sort of tubular cup, and the nectar that pools there must be especially sweet, for it draws the Monarchs in great wide flocks! And they will actually share a thistle flower. Other butterflies will often share wildflowers, but Monarchs are haughty and tend to totally take over a wildflower, whether small cornflower or large wild rose. But they will adjust their wings to keep them virtually straight up and gather them in close together while on a thistle, sharing the very small space with one or two of their fellows. And they will linger for a very long time over their meal. They seem more inclined to aerial acrobatics when they eventually lift up into the sky too.
And since so many Monarchs gather so closely together wherever the thistles are - and thistles, in turn, grow closely together in riotous profusion - the sight of dozens of butterflies fluttering up from their thistle-meals and looping around each other joyously, taking their time spinning and swirling and swanning through the air, is a most remarkable sight, especially at sunset. Then, the Monarch's vibrant wings light up like stained glass, the red brightening and reflecting the shifting colours of the clouds and the sea waves, occasionally flashing gilded-gold in the setting sun.
Truthfully, watching the Monarchs is one of my favourite things to do in the summer. I think it's absolutely remarkable that they migrate down to Mexico in the Winter and manage to find their way back to us. And the beach where I took this picture is a prime Monarch spot, as the purple thistles run thick and wild.
Or, at least they usually do. This year, most of the thistles had disappeared, taken over by the ugly stinging nettle, a hostile weed with no redeeming value whatsoever that excretes a toxin that induces severe itching, which later develops into painful burns if not immediately treated, when it chances to brush human skin. It grows widely where my Grandparents live, even in the most well-tended yards, and the only way to get rid of it is setting it afire since the roots are spindly and stubbornly set deep. But stinging nettles tend to die back when they cannot easily sustain themselves, and so usually limit their conquests to taking over easy prey, wild grasses and bushes that grow in boggy, water-logged areas.
Thistles, at least those of the purple variety, do not like their feet wet, and so alhough they live beside a beach, they root themselves high on the sandy rocks, away from the damp areas where the stinging nettles like to grow. Thus, it is very curious that the stinging nettles on this beach chose to wage war on such a notedly formidable foe, and even more remarkable that the purple thistles lost the battle.
Perhaps this indicates some sort of change in the underlying topography, causing the small patches of marshy land to spread. Or perhaps the stinging nettles have rashly taken an area that they cannot hold, and will die back by next summer, leaving the thistles to flourish again. I'm hoping for the later. Because the Monarchs do not like stinging nettles, and I very much miss the sight of them winging over my favourite beach. Everything changes, I am learning, but whether it is for good or for ill is never known until well after the fact. Hopefully, this will be one of the good ones!
I'm hoping that another recent change will have been for the better. As you know, I did not take any stitchy projects with me when I went to visit my Grandparents. This was more by practicality than design, since I knew I would be busy and that, if the weather was good, I would like to spend my time outside down by the water.
Although I've tried stitching "al fresco" outside in the past, sitting on my windy rocky beach (as seen, partly, above!) while birds and butterflies circle overhead is a bit too much like one of my Mother's "accidents waiting to happen" for me. She uses that phrase incessantly, whenever she can see a good chance of something awful happening in a certain circumstance. Since I do not want to get salt water on my work, or pick sand out of my thread, or have birds and insects - both of which tend to be attracted to shiny things - be drawn towards me by the flash of my needle in the sunlight (never mind the wind attempting to whip pattern and project and supplies from my fingers and lap), I have not - to date - attempted to stitch on a beach :)
Usually, by late August, I have a plan in place for my Christmas stitching. I am not much of a pre-planner, truthfully, but I often make gifts for my close family and friends, and some of those - especially since my focus has been almost exculsively on stitching lately, and not beading or crochet or other craft - will inevitably be stitched. By now I usually have pulled out various patterns for certain people, and would spend the next few weeks choosing the projects (from all the possible projects) and gathering the supplies to start and readying myself to stitch them.
I have severely startled myself by having not done *any* of this! While at my Grandparents, I retrieved the large part of my Stitchy Stash that I had left there for safekeeping, and part of that was my cache of stitchy magazines. When I got home, I sorted through them all, and separated out the ones with Christmas-themed projects and possible Christmas-gift projects. But I didn't make Possible Project lists. And although I had brought back some supplies that I had dearly missed the last little while, I did not get anything together. In short, my "stitchy mojo" seems to be gone!
And this is very strange for me. I have, in my possession, a *ton* of projects that I *want* to stitch very much. I have most of the materials, and the time. And yet, I haven't stitched anything. Nothing new, and nothing on my WIPs either. It's very perplexing, to be honest. I have watched other stitchy bloggers go through this at times, and have read a lot of helpful advice. Advice about a small new start, or a break, or starting a project that is entirely different from what you're doing. All good ideas to renew your interest! But the problem is that my interest has not waned.
I'm excited about potential new starts I found in my stitchy magazines, but I don't start them. I look at the projects I'm doing now and would like nothing more than to work on them, and yet when I pick them up, I just look at them stupidly and then put them down. And waste a lot of time doing other meaningless things. In Fall and Winter, I plan my stitching time around the sun, as the days get shorter and the light grows dimmer. Yet I find myself acutely aware that I am more or less *wasting* prime-time stitchy light and can't seem to shake myself out of it. It is rather surreal.
I'm hoping that this is temporary. That the stinging nettles have metaphorically overwhelmed the purple thistles in my mind, but that they will soon die back and leave more room for something good to bloom in their place. Perhaps I'll feel Super Stitchy soon. Hopefully well in time to work on my Christmas present planning and gifts! The funny thing is that this is not at all the post that I set out to write today.
But this just snuck up and whalloped me, as many other things are doing in my life - as fast as the Roadrunner used to take a wooden mallet to poor Wile. E. Coyote - and there's really nothing left but to try to shake off the shock, like Wile E. waiting for the cartoon stars to fade. And that I'll leap out of it as fast as he always does and be back to chasing the Roadrunner once again. Or in my case, picking up my needle and chasing my stitches, sometime soon :)
This is all to say that although I've got lots of interesting things to share with you, that I hope to be writing about in the very near future, you may not be seeing much of my personal work, at least for the next little while. And now you know why :)
On the good news front, this lovely package that I won from Agi's Surprise Giveaway was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned home:
As you can see, there are a lot of very interesting fibres there! There is a most beautiful and shiny spool of (pink!!!) Kreinik blending filament, which I prize highly and will keep for A Very Special Project sometime in the future, and three of the DMC colour variations that I've been longing to work with, and two spools of variegated pearl cotton #8, my favourite size for blackwork filling!
It's funny how might be ordinary to one stitcher becomes extraordinary to another, by virtue of distance (the two brown pearl cotton #5 skeins are from Germany!!!) and time (the three skeins of "linen floss", which is a tightly twisted two-ply with amazing sheen, whose three different labels and places of manufacture - the first two in Scotland and the last in the United Kingdom - tell part of the no-doubt amazing 230 year history of W & J Knox, LTD.!!!).Thanks again Agi!
I'd also like to send my heart-felt thanks out to those of you who have been so very patient these last couple of weeks, both with the blog and the lack of e-mail. I'm looking forward to catching up on everything. An unexpected benefit of a missing Stitchy Mojo is an increase in reading and computer time! Here's wishing that all the changes currently happening in your life will turn out to be for the better too :)
(P.S. I've been forced to use the new Blogger Interface because the regular one wouldn't work for me, so if anything looks wonky, please let me know)