365 Days of Earrings

Friday, September 30, 2011

Taking time to create with sand and wool roving

Today I wore this pair of stylized bears that I bought in a museum gift shop many years ago. I chose them today because one of our 3rd grade projects this afternoon was sand painting.

I showed my students how to mix sand and powdered tempera to create colored sand, explaining that Navajo artists use rocks, lichen, berries, and other natural materials to create their colors.

I'd love to take this project to this more authentic level. Maybe one day I'll try it myself. The "old masters" once ground all of their own pigments...

Like Johannes Vermeer who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring! And Navajo sandpainters whose paintings are ephemeral creations, striking in their symmetrical perfection but intended to vanish with the desert winds.

This afternoon, my students explored sand painting, each creating an animal or geometric design. As they finished they made cardboard looms on which to weave wool roving.

I love to share ancient crafts with modern children. They find as much joy in working with natural materials, sand and wool, as children have since time began. And so do I.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is change coming to Saudi Arabia?

This morning as I drove to school, I listened to a long NPR story about women in Saudi Arabia. Is change coming?

King Abdullah announced this week that women would be permitted to vote...in 2015? And there is a good chance that he will reduce the sentence of a woman who was sentenced to ten lashes with a whip for driving a car.

More than half of Saudi college students are women, but they can neither drive nor vote.

As I looked at these earrings, I saw question marks.

Why do fundamentalist religions choose to subjugate women?

What do these educated women teach their sons?

Lashes? Really?

Is change coming?


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Felt Earrings for Apple Gleaning

Today we loaded our 3rd graders into two mini-buses and drove to the Marker-Miller Orchard in Winchester, VA to glean apples.

Disclaimer: these are not the buckets of apples that we gleaned. We were assigned rows of golden delicious apples. As we filled buckets, we tied up 10 pound bags containing 30 servings each. Each of my 26 students filled at least 5 buckets. 26 x 4 x 10 = 1250 pounds of apples, and 3750 servings. Then we loaded the bags on trucks that were heading straight for a food pantry and a homeless shelter. The apples we touched would feed hungry people today.
Millet's painting: The Gleaners

Gleaning is a word that has fallen out of use. I think I learned about gleaning from the Biblical story of Naomi and her daughter Ruth. Landowners were expected to leave some food behind for the laborers to glean, so that they could feed themselves.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of gleaning:
Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system.

Mosaic of Millet's The Gleaners that I photographed
last summer in France when we visited Barbizon on
our bike trip.
 I love gleaning apples with my students. We walk past trees laden with apples to the rows where pick-your-own visitors have cleaned the trees. We search the ground, loading our buckets with the good apples that were left behind. Collecting apples to feed hungry children is so tangible. My students can look at each apple, deciding, "Would I want to eat that apple?" They learn that their effort can make a difference in the lives of others.

I wore my handmade felt carrot earrings today. Remarkable as it seems, I don't own any apple earrings. This pair was a gift from my student Justin three years ago. His brother Luke is in my class this year. I wore produce in honor of the harvest season which we celebrated today by gleaning apples.

Justin and Luke's mom, Pam, bakes the best pie I've ever eaten. She gave me a pie-baking lesson, but I have yet to master pie crust.

I love these earrings. They're the only felt pair that I own. When I thanked Pam for them years ago, she said, "We saw them at a festival and thought of you. Who else would wear felt carrots on her ears?"

I took this as the compliment it was intended to be. Perhaps I'll try to make some felt apples before I go gleaning again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dangling through Picture Day

Today was Picture Day at school. As a teacher, I get a free package of photos each year. I don't want them. No one wants to hang my photo on their fridge, or put it in an album. From year to year, I look pretty much the same, although my hair is becoming increasingly more silver on its way to pure white.

Picture Day is stressful at school. Kids and their parents are worried about hair and clothes and smiles. Some families forget, and then fret about having the wrong clothes and unkempt hair. Before long, we'll have Picture ReTake Day.

My parents bought only one school photo, as far as I know. This one, from first grade. Why buy expensive, posed pictures, my dad asked, when candid shots show more?

I wore these earrings today for my school picture. I bought them at a craft show quite a few years ago. I wonder whether I've worn them for Picture Day before... But not enough to look through all of those envelopes of old photos. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lovely Lizards

In 3rd grade Social Studies today we moved our focus from the people who hunted buffalo on the Great Plains to the people of the Southwest deserts. I shared the beginning of Miska Miles' Newberry Honor Book, Annie and the Old One, a touching story about a young Navajo girl who wants to prevent the death of her grandmother.

As we began to talk about life in the desert, I wore this pair of lizards, creatures of warmer climes. They are one of the many lovely pairs that I received from my cousin-in-law, Jeanne, along with sticky-note descriptions of their provenance and explaining why she no longer wears them. This note:
Dave bought me these because I love lizards and he had finally talked me out of bringing them home from the wild to keep as pets. These are too long for me.
How lucky I am that Jeanne loves lizards, that Dave bought her earrings instead of pet lizards, and that she thinks they're too long! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Bewitching Star-Crossed Dream

The American Shakespeare Center never disappoints. Their goal is to perform a play as Shakespeare's players would have done it--no special lighting, music performed live by the actors, a versatile troop using all of their talents to entertain.

This afternoon we drove to the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, VA to see ASC's traveling group work their magic with A Midsummer Night's Dream. With each actor playing at least two parts, they wove the twisting tale of love, of a play within a play, and of the machinations of Puck and Oberon. We were spellbound.

My 6'1" son, Willem, played Demetrius (one of the star-crossed lovers) in this play a few summers ago with Not Just Shakespeare in Leesburg, VA. He once perched on our banister to recite Puck's monologue, a role he'd love to play one day. A dream worth dreaming.

Willem's love of Shakepeare led us to the American Shakespeare Theater many years ago. He spent part of three summers in their youth program, YCTC. In three short weeks, students create a performance of an abridged play. On the last day of the camp, three groups perform three different plays to the delight and amazement of audiences.

Today, I wore this pair of enamaled earrings--more star-crossed than midsummer's night, I guess. The blue light of night seemed appropriate, somehow. I've owned this pair for a long time, and don't recall whether I bought them or they were a gift. Mother-of-pearl mountains, a midnight blue sky, and shooting stars--a bewitching land of dreams.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Still willing to wander

I live about an hour and a half from the National Mall in Washington, DC, but I hadn't visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, the FDR Memorial, or the World War II Memorial until today. I chose to wear the earrings that I've come to see as "a long and winding road." When I first bought this pair, I called them squiggly. Today, when I look at them, I see life's long and wandering path.

I met my high school friend, Carolyn, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. We'd decided we'd spend the day walking and talking, wherever the spirit moved. I spent a while alone, deeply moved by the inscriptions at the MLK memorial. We were both impressed by the symbolism of the FDR Memorial. And discomfitted as a man joined this line to pose for a photo, shouting into the face of the man in the front, "Get a job!"  We wandered on.

Carolyn and I were together daily during the school years 1972-3 and 1973-4, our junior and senior years. I remember forays into DC for the Folk Life Festival, movies, and art exhibits, some by bus and some in my family's Pontiac station wagon, always a long and winding road. We enjoyed a rainy backpacking trip during our final high school spring break with the school outdoor club. We shared this spread in our senior yearbook.

Carolyn and I saw each other a bit when we both lived in Ann Arbor, MI for a few years in the late 1970's and early 1980's. We last met at the National Zoo in about 1995--she with her two young sons, me with my three young kids.

Today the two of us wandered around Washington, DC, catching up on the past 40 years-- our work, our kids, our parents, what we know of our classmates from long ago.

Those quotes in my yearbook?

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear
I learn by going where I have to go.
                     - Theodore Roethke

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand wavin' free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
      -Bob Dylan

Carolyn and I have taken some long and winding roads. I'm glad they led us back together today, still friends, still willing to wander.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What if we allow the Owl and the Pussycat to sail away?

I wore another pair of Jabebo earrings today, ones that I bought twelve or fifteen years ago when I was teaching middle school science. I might have been thinking I'd wear them to teach about wind energy or bouyancy, but in my heart I know that I bought them because this poem reminds me of my dad who memorized it as a young child and could still recite it over 60 years later.  
I wore them today because our Lower School assembly was to be a celebration of rounds and rhymes. When I was a child, my family entertained ourselves on long car trips by singing and listening to my dad's recitations of the poems he learned as a boy.
The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
 Said the Piggy, "I will."
The children I teach watch movies when they go for long car trips. When I put them in their cars to ride home from school, many immediately turn on their video game players. Most of them had never sung a round, other than perhaps in music class.What will become of our children if the Owl and the Pussycat just sail away?

So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
I try to hope that these changes will lead to positive outcomes. But I fear that much of the rich culture of childhood is drifting away, and that it will be hard to retrieve.
"They sailed away for a year and a day.... And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon. They danced by the light of the moon."
Mmmm. My dad's voice would linger over those final phrases, savoring the lilting rhymes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Unrepentant Pack Rat

I am a pack rat. I have trouble throwing away things that might be useful one day. Bottle caps, for instance. I think that it's an inherited trait. My paternal grandmother was a collector, too, of a magnitude that dwarfs mine. And my Uncle Howard's love of collecting reached psychotic heights, with hoards stored in alleys all over the cities where he lived.

I have collections stored in collections. Like these old baby wipe boxes that stack like legos. I haven't needed baby wipes in 17 years, but I've kept fasteners and buttons and wire in these containers all these years.
Books are precious to me. This set of Encyclopedia Britannicas belonged to my grandmother, and then to my dad, and now to me. When I want to learn about a topic from pre-1900, I refer to these volumes.
This is not the 11th edition, the most celebrated in history, written by the greatest scholars of the day. But it is the 1926 edition which contains many of those same articles, updated in some cases.

Today in Writing Workshop, with the help of a white rat puppet, I talked about rats. E.B. White's Templeton communicated the author's low opinion of rats, formed through his experiences with rats both in the city and at his beloved farm. But then I shared some fairy tale rats, Cinderella from the point of view of a rat-turned-horse, and How to Care for Your Pet Rat. Time ran short, and I never mentioned my pack rat earrings, one of this summer's Jabebo purchases.

But anyone who knows me well can attest that I am an unrepentant pack rat. And that I've been the source of some useful, recycled item. Waste not, want not. The pack rat's motto.

Hmmm. These old Altoid boxes would be perfect for holding sets of dimes and pennies in math! I knew I was saving them for something!

Glass from the Past

A package awaited me in my teacher mailbox at the end of the day on Tuesday. I opened it, pulled an envelope out of the bubble wrap, and found such richness: earrings, tumbled dump glass, and a note from a friend who's drifted in and out of my life since we shared high school adventures, some 40 years ago...

I walked through the halls reading Carolyn's card, smiling and sighing as we reconnected through her words. It turned out that we'd been reconnecting for a couple of months as she read this blog, discovering "little synchronicites" in our lives.

She bought me these earrings at a craft fair at Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes, a park I visited when we both were living in Ann Arbor. When I first moved to Michigan, Carolyn provided me housing and helped me find a job. The glass came from old farm dumps, dug up by women looking for "treasure" like old horse liniment bottles. They tumble the broken glass, smoothing sharp edges.
On Friday mornings 40 years ago, Carolyn and I spent the hour-long Cathedral service basking in the glow of stained glass, reveling in the beauty of the light, the music, and the language of the King James version of the Bible.

We liked to sit on the floor in the side aisle, leaning against Woodrow Wilson's tomb rather than in the rows of chairs set up in the main nave. 
That's where we'd like to meet this weekend while she's in the area helping her 87-year-old father move out of her childhood home. But the cathedral is still closed to visitors after the recent earthquake damage.

We're considering where else to meet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Webs for Charlotte

Today I wore another pair of the earrings that arrived in a package sent from Atlanta by my cousin-in-law Jeanne. The note reads, The mesh earrings were knitted by a friend. They're silver wire; I think they should polish up. But I didn't take time to polish them up: I wore them today along with my amber spider pin-- webs for Charlotte, the spider.

My 3rd graders have each chosen an animal to write about. Many are writing fantasy stories with talking animals. My colleague Janie, who taught this class last year, offered to loan me Michael Sims' incredible biography of a book: The Story of Charlotte's Web. Using E.B. White's notes, he shares the background research that White pursued as he wrote his masterpiece.

I shared a couple of excerpts from each book. One about Wilbur's horror as Charlotte described how she ate a fly, another from a source that White had read which explained how spiders paralyze, wrap, and digest their prey. We talked about how even in a story with talking animals an author can include research and facts. Then I held up a plastic container in which I'd trapped a spider spied by Olivia, the first girl who arrived in class this morning. I put the container on our Elmo document camera which projects objects onto our big screen. We watched this tiny spider spin for a while.

"E.B. White watched spiders spin, too. He studied how their egg cases hatch. He was a spider expert by the time he wrote Charlotte's Web," I told them. Then I told them about how my dad gave me one book each Christmas when I was a child. This was my 1965 book, when I was 9, the same age many of them are now.

My students wrote for a while, knowing that if they wanted to place their notebooks on the Elmo and share them on the big screen, they should include some information from their research in the piece that they were writing. When it was time to share, the anticipation was palpable.

I'm grateful to so many people for this rich teaching moment. Thanks Janie, thanks E.B. White, thanks Michael Sims, thanks Jeanne, thanks Olivia, thanks Elmo, and special thanks to my dad for giving me my own copy of this most wonderful of books.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Armadillos: the state small animal of Texas

This morning I chose to wear these armadillo earrings that I bought at a science teacher's conference long ago. For years I took my students to the National Zoo where we recorded the behavior a variety of animals, including the Golden Lion Tamerine, a tiny primate that leapt from branch to branch with infants clinging to their mothers. In the same exhibit were a sloth and an armadillo, neither of whom ever moved. The only armadillos I've ever seen were that motionless one, which resembled a basketball, and dead armadillos on the highway in Texas.

But one of my 3rd graders has chosen to write about armadillos this month. Thanks to him, I know that the armadillo is the "state small animal of Texas." As far as I know, my home state of Virginia doesn't even have a state animal. State bird (cardinal), state fish (brook trout), state dog (American foxhound), but no state animal. Much less a state small animal.

My armadillos caught my eye this morning, and I thought of Benjamin. So I wore them. I'll have to be more cautious.

Benjamin spotted them dangling from my ears this morning, and asked, "Why are you wearing those?"

"Because of you!" I responded.

Shortly thereafter, I had one of those stressful teaching moments that happens when we allow children to conduct web-based research, even at "pre-screened" sites. I glanced across the computer lab to see a man with a gun in some sort of night-vision movie walking towards an armadillo. I hope it was a tranquilizer gun, and the man was a researcher, but fortunately, it was dim and dark and Benjamin decided to close the window and try another site. Whew. Later I tried to retrace his steps, to find out what he was watching, but I've failed.

Maybe my earrings were trying to warn me to beware of armadillos.  Tomorrow... lizards? I'll have to sleep on it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wrapped Paper Beads

Yesterday I wandered into the Potomac Bead Company in Alexandria, VA. Having just received the bounty of earrings that Jeanne sent, I was thinking of necklaces when I bought a few strands of beads, a couple of large stones, and a bag of wrapped paper beads made at a women's cooperative in Africa.

I sorted the paper beads today, and set about making some necklaces to fulfill a "handmade gift sent in 2011" promise I made early this year. I hope the fact that I didn't make the handmade beads won't negate the deal.

With necklaces finished, I made a pair of earrings for today. Green stone and wrapped paper beads on a modified hoop. Perfect for a Sunday at home, beading and watching TNT movies.