365 Days of Earrings

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yearring's End, and a New Beginning

Today I have come full circle through the year. 365 pair of earrings, one for each of the 365 days of 2011.

Why 365? Because that's how many days it takes for planet Earth to travel around its sun. 365.242, really. It's one of those numbers we can't control.

Nature is full of patterns and numbers. Humans have puzzled over them and created a myriad of patterns of our own.

For millenia, such patterns have been part of human worship, like this lotus mandala used in Buddhist practice. 

One pattern found in nature came to dominate our number system: ten fingers. A logical decimal system, base 10. I'm grateful that people around the world embraced this system: in Egypt, China, and India. Cultures using base 12 and base 60 lost out.

Many other ancient systems remain in use. 24 hours in a day. 360 degrees in a circle. 12 inches in a foot. 4 quarts in a gallon. All had their origins in nature. All have served us well.

But just as cultures all over the world adopted the Base Ten Decimal System, in the last 100 years they have also adopted the Metric system which applies Base Ten to measurement.

We Americans are stuck in the past, using systems that do not serve science, industry, technology, or even cooking well. Our educational system wastes valuable time teaching children how to compute the myriads of conversions.

Today, I wore these lovely hand-crafted flowers that my husband John bought for me at the DC Holiday Market.

Ten-petaled earrings. My final pair for 2011. A bridge to my project for 2012, an exploration that I'm calling Penny Wise and Pound Foolish. I'll be blogging at http://arkametric.blogspot.com/ starting on January 1, 2012. 

But I'll be enjoying my 365 pairs of earrings (and the 20 or so that I never wore) for years to come. With thanks to the makers and to the givers for my yearring.

Dec. 30: Children's Literature Connections

I could not believe my eyes when I spotted this pair of fish earrings at the DC Holiday Market. Koi? Swimming in a pond!?! I didn't just want them, I needed them!

Fortunately, I was being shadowed by my daughter Kathe so that she could inform my son Willem if I found a pair of earrings that I wanted. He bought them, marveling that this could be the pair. Goldfish? Really? Oh, the ecomystery. It's about goldfish this year?

In March 2012, I'll be leading an all-school program about Japanese koi, our annual culture study ecomystery. If my year of earrings were not ending this month, I'd be saving this pair for that morning in March. It's hard to let go of this year's mindset that I have to save my earrings for the perfect day.

But they were a gift from my son Willem, so I wore them on a day when we planned to go to see a movie together.

In the morning, I read some of Grace Lin's 2009 children's novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which tells the story of a Chinese girl's quest, magic carp, a dragon, and mysterious inscriptions.

Too bad Grace Lin's ancestry is Chinese, rather than Japanese. What fun it would be to use her novel as the basis for my ecomystery. 2012 will be the Year of the Dragon in both China and Japan. Koi, the ornamental fish bred in Japan, evolved from carp that were introduced from China as a food fish. I could go on, and on. Because each year's ecomystery becomes a massive research project for me.

I picked up this book at the library because of the dragon on the cover, and my 3rd grade class recently finished writing fantasy adventure stories containing dragons. Carp!?! Magic carp??? Could I weave that element into my ecomystery?

Wearing my koi earrings, I headed off to see Martin Scorcese's movie, Hugo, closely based on another children's book I read earlier this month, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. A great story which reveals some of the early history of filmmaking to young readers. A fun film, but, as Willem says, flawed, dwelling on certain images rather than developing the historical figures that we wanted to learn more about.

Something for me to ponder. Does children's literature too often skim the surface of the author's research and knowledge, leaving children missing the deep meanings the author intended to convey?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Global Connections

I made this pair of earrings last summer using South America nuts (the large tagua nuts with the inscribed swirl, African paper (the small wrapped paper beads), and Asian metal (the earwires, made in China, like too much of what I buy...).

To me this spiral pattern has always symbolized life's long and winding road. 

I wore them today for a shopping expedition with my daughter Phoebe whose life goals involve traveling the world, exploring languages and cultures, and making connections with people around the globe. She'll turn 20 next month. A long and windy road awaits.

Dec 28: Gifts and Giving

For our drive home from a visit with my husband's family in PA, I wore these exquisite earrings that were a gift from my in-laws: "Artisan glass made with crystallized Swarovski Elements," says the tag. We started the day with a family brunch, 4 generations gathered to share food and drink, the only time this group has gathered this year.

I handed out more hand-made gifts to my niece and her family, newly arrived from a trip to visit her husband's family in Germany, and en route to their home in Alaska.

Giving gifts, a great joy of the holidays. But also a source of some stress. What to give? Will it be loved and used? We give with hope. And then we watch, warily.

I received so many thoughtful presents this year, among them books, earrings, a hand-knitted infinity scarf, and a t-shirt on which my daughter Kathe drew my dreamscape: river, pines, and mountains under a cradling crescent moon. I know that the givers are observing me with the same watchful eye I turn toward them: will my gift be loved and used? Will it be worth my time and effort?

I've become more relaxed over the years, knowing that not everyone will appreciate every gift. But still hoping that they will appreciate the investment of love.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music to my Ears

For my visit with my husband's family, I brought along my new Native American drum earrings, a Christmas gift from my friend and colleague Debbie. Tiny, hand-stitched, made of leather and wood and painted by hand.

During our visit, we're staying in my sister-in-law Beth's music room, home to her paino and the wide array of musical instruments that she collected during her career as an elementary music teacher.
Hanging on the wall next to our bed is this Alaskan drum that Beth received as a gift from her daughter Marianne who has spent 7 years teaching in Alaska.

On the floor stands another drum which has been played in many of Beth's concerts, both by children at school, in her community choir, her adult chorus, and her church choirs.

In this family, music is a way of life. Beth, my husband John, and their other two brothers all have earned their living as professional musicians, teaching and performing. Both of their parents played flute. Their mother's singing was an inspirational part of their childhoods.

For Christmas, Beth gave her granddaughter Hazel a set of drums, just like ones she used to use in her classroom.

Now Hazel holds a drumstick in one hand and a drum in the other, singing songs she's heard sung by three generations. Music to my ears. 

360 degrees and Christmas Trees

This morning I packed my bag for a drive into the conifer forests of Pennsylvania for our annual post-Christmas visit with my husband's family.

I wore a pair of red and blue paper pine tree earrings. (I forgot my camera's card reader at home, so I'll have to wait to post the photo.) These were a gift from my daughter Phoebe last Christmas. I saved them for today, the day after Christmas, a day when I leave our Christmas tree, and get view the decorated trees in homes belonging to three generations of my husband's family. All three trees were cut from my brother-in-law's Christmas tree farm, Tippery Pines.

This year, atop our neice's tree is a glowing green square light that reminded me of a small TV screen. 

"We didn't have a tree topper, but there was that empty plug on top of the tree. So we plugged in a night light," said Julie. "It's perfect!" Nine month old Heidi was crawling beneath the tree, while her sister Hazel, aged two and a half, handed out drums for us all to play. Their tree is the tree of a young family--not too crowded, especially down low where little hands might reach.

Julie's parents' tree is not so tall as the one she and Jake chose for their cathedral ceilinged living room. Beth and John's low ceiling allows a shorter tree, but one laden with far more ornaments, each a memory of their 38 years of marriage. Gifts from friends, souvenirs of trips, hand-made creations.

Grandma and Grandpa's tree is tiny. It stands on a table in the mobile home where they now live, nestled in the midst of the Christmas Tree farm, between their daughter's home and the house that once was theirs, but now houses granddaughter Julie and her family. Their little, scraggly tree holds only the most precious of memories now; so many others once loaded the branches of the large tree that filled a corner of their living room in the home where I first visited them 30 Christmases ago.

It wasn't until I started typing that I realized today is day 360. The 360th day of 2011. The 360th day of my blog. A good day to think about the circle of life. Coming 360.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Overlook for Christmas

This afternoon we went for a
hike through the woods near
our house.

The path leads to a clearing on the
top of the ridge.
Civil War soldiers marched through here,
set signal fires, and skirmished.

We hiked to the overlook that looks east
across the valley.

It's a lovely view.

The sign reads,
"We welcome you to the
Piedmont Memorial
a privately owned memorial
to those who spent their lives
protecting the land
you see from here.
Please treat it with reverence
and take from this high place
inspiration to protect the land
that touches your life."

I wore this pair of earrings
that my daughter Kathe and her husband Jim
bought for me at the Highland Games from
the artist who crafted them.
This was the first pair I opened this
morning, and I decided to wear them
all day, rather than change into the
crescent moon Santas I'd thought I'd wear.
They suited the beauty of the day.

Jim, Kathe, and Leif wore the fleece
neckwarmers that convert into hats
which I made for them.
The joy of Christmas:
giving and receiving,
sharing joy,
basking in the glow of family time.