Posts filed in: August 2007

Last Night

comments: 65

Farm2

It was the last concert of the year at the farm last night. It seems there've been a million days between Andy's birthday, when the peonies were blooming; the Fourth of July, when the fireworks were; our anniversary, when we spent the night; and now, when the dahlias sparkle and shine.

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It feels like fall is creeping in at the farm. Even Farmer Don said it was here. He said it'd been a great summer. The air smelled like basil and hay. It was hard for me to not remember last month, when Audrey was at the farm with us, lying on the blue blanket, watching the crowd. I was so glad that we'd brought her then. We thought she was hurt, but not sick. She always enjoyed being out with us, part of things. I felt so special when I was out with her because everyone always smiled at us, no matter where we went. Everyone smiles at a little corgi. It makes you feel like they're smiling at you. I miss that.

Farm1

There was a man standing in a field of marigolds. I thought he was pretty damn cute.

Farm7

He offered me a teensy cinnamon donut and I said, "I'll follow you anywhere, baby. Lead on."

Farm3

The hayride wove us through the fields.

Farm6

And the band played into the night.

Back on the Horse

comments: 41

Dogandpony1

Thursday then, eh? Already?

The last few weeks have been a blur, and seem to have gone by in a flash (like a fast blur). I have dozens of personal emails to answer, several voicemails to return, and many thank-you cards to write. For I must say again, until I can get to them, thank you — thank you for all the little things, the bubble bath, the chocolates, the sweetest notes and cards, all of the sweet little things. I'm touched beyond words by the donations to animal organizations that have been made in Audrey's name. I'm really . . . wow. People. My heart is so soggy. I have so many feelings about the last month. It's hard not to believe that everything's going to be alright when you know there are friends like you all, all over the place, little Swiss dots of love, sprinkled down everywhere. Look how that helps. Thank you. For helping me feel like that again.

The reality is that the book is getting finished, fast and furiously, as I enter the last month, the homestretch of my steeplechase, for it has felt like a steeplechase, thrilling and too fast, hooves pounding, mud and sticks flying. Many, many times over the past few months I've thought I might just ride the horse right off the track and out into the forest — Goodbye! Goodbye! I can't do this!

So when I look at my desk and see the huge stack of paper that is the almost-finished manuscript and its giant companion-pile of projects I feel liquefied with relief. My technical editor on this book is my former boss from years ago, when I worked in publishing myself — I was able to hire her to work with me and I am so grateful that I've had her expertise to guide me throughout this summer. Ellen has worked in the industry for almost thirty years. I was hired by her and became her protege when I started as a production editor myself. We worked together for three years. She taught me everything I know about how books become books — we are both traditionalists, and I loved being trained in the old ways. I always wanted that. It is a small miracle that we are here, exactly ten years after our first meeting in August of 1997, working together again on something that means so much to me now. I have learned a million things in the past few months, and at times the lessons have been painful! Some days have been great, some days have been impossibly hard.

But when I am working on this book I am transported to that time years ago when I sat in my little office with my green banker's lamp and proofed page after page of manuscripts and layouts, sentences and paragraphs and photos that would become books about bush pilots, wild birds, the medicinal herbs of Alaska, and felt like I was in heaven. I was so excited when I got that job and I loved it so much when I was there. Sometimes, over the past seven years since I left, I've thought that I'd like to be there again, back in the office with my friends, a pile of chores where I know just what needs to be done and how to do it. But working on my own book now, after all these years of sewing and not thinking about books very much, has changed my life. I see now that it is exactly the right thing for me to do, weaving up both those sides of my life in a seam that feels exactly right. And I almost never feel like that.

The draft ms. is on its way to being finished, the projects are almost finished, the photo shoots have started, the kids are passing in front of my camera, populating the special little world that the projects inhabit in my imagination, making it real-ish. Turns out, photographing kids is, oh, a million times harder than I thought? A billion? Of course, it's also a billion times more fun, but Oh! you cross your fingers when you look at those thumbnails, I tell ya. I don't have as much experience shooting people as I do shooting jars of cloudberry jam. If the project is in focus, the kid has his eyes closed. If the kid looks cute, the project is upside down. If the kid looks cute and the project's front and center, it's all unfocused because someone was laughing (could be the kid, could be me). My great reward will be shooting still-lifes. I didn't know how easy we had it, me and my crochet, my sock pups, my quilts that just sit there for hours and hours, patiently waiting for me to get what I want. But you know I wouldn't have it any other way, giggles and dog-and-pony kisses and all.

Crush of Veils and Starlight

comments: 54

Wilco1

I woke up this morning thinking about Wilco, and thinking about how the encore at their show last week was really long, and was actually the best part of the show, after that teaser where you think they're gone and they make you feel that they're gone, you have to cheer them back on and I really did feel that we needed to cheer for them to come back or they wouldn't come back, how some of the songs that I know only from the CDs made so much more sense live (the ones with lots of distortion, like "Via Chicago" — when the booming and the flashing lights started each time I was overwhelmed — I felt just like that, as if I might explode — a great moment at 3:12 [from a show the day before, not ours, but it was just like that] — the saddest moment in the world somehow). As soon as Jeff Tweedy came on stage I started worrying about him, about whether he was having a good time, whether he liked us all (because I wanted him to love us all), if he felt alright that day, and I always worry about this when I see bands — I really want them to have a good time, want it to be the best show ever, but for them, not us. I'm told this is a really bizarre thing to worry about but it happens every time. With Tweedy you just feel like you want to knit him a sweater or make him chicken and biscuits, anything warm. It occurs to me that I could be happy being a Wilco groupie, just following them around the world, sitting out in the crowd at every show, feeling anxious and hopeful, letting him weave up the sadnesses and shoot them out in a rush of light and sound. "This is the highest crowd in the world," he said, softspoken, and the laughter just bubbled out of me, it felt so good to laugh. The moon rose over the trees at Edgefield, that strange, melancholy place and I just wanted to stay there, and sleep in the chair, under the pine trees on the lawn, and think about home, and summer's end.

Wilco2

We did wind up spending the night but in the hotel and not on the lawn. It was almost the same, with the big windows open in our room on the first floor of the manor house, that John Irving–like behemoth that used to shelter the residents of the Multnomah County Poor Farm. After the show, we wandered around all the little outbuildings — at night all the little drinking spots are lit up with millions of little lights. I didn't take pictures, just walked, but they have a slide show that really captures what it feels like there. After we went to bed, drunk people wandered past our window until 2 a.m., laughing and shouting to each other at the top of their lungs, lost in the maze of Edgefield and alcohol. This is the little pub and distillery by the golf course. It used to be a potato shed and a horse barn.

Wilco3

The McMenamin brothers are well-known in the Northwest for renovating historic properties and turning them into rather amazing pubs and hotels. I tend to feel the history too heavily when I'm at their places, but I'm weird about that. The history at Edgefield feels very close, especially in the morning when it's quiet, in the gardens where the poor farm residents grew kale and onions, picked apples.

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I feel lucky to have gotten to see Wilco. I hardly ever see live music anymore. I forgot how it works. You have to be there to remember, maybe. I don't know if it always works, either. But it did this time so that's enough for me. Thank you thank you.

Wilco7

On the way home, a quick side-trip to see the view. I hope the boys in the band stopped here and saw this, you know? I worry about those boys.

Wilco6

On the way home, $2.50 a bu.

The Swing vs. The Squares

comments: 118

Work1 Hello again. Flowers. Papers. Work. I made chicken with biscuits, too. Trying to get back in the swing. When life's nice, there's a gentle swing. When it's hard, it's one foot in front of the other. Step step step. I think that's called losing your mojo. I've been there before. I've done this before.

I was alone in the house all weekend, my first weekend alone. It was quiet. I pulled the dining-room table into the living room by myself so I could turn on the TV while I worked because it was so quiet. I worked on all the illustrations for the book and I did really enjoy that. I drew running stitches and mitered corners and French knots with a really nice black pen on smooth white paper and everything looked beautiful. It felt good to have it go well. I must say that I was shocked. When I looked at all the drawings at the end of the night, I almost couldn't believe that I'd done them. I forgot that I can actually draw. It's not me, it's genetic. Mostly I was amazed that it was possible for me to get something right when everything feels so suddenly wrong. I kept looking at the drawings over and over again, trying to feel confident again. You did those, I said to myself, and they came out fine. Step step step. Bird by bird.

Biscuits1 I miss my old life, the one where Audrey sat beside me while I worked, where she dropped her head hard on my foot and looked up at me, pushing against my ankle in a way that actually hurt. She could not be denied, and I wouldn't. If I was cooking in the kitchen, she could see me from her bed. We looked at each other a million times a day — doing okay, you? Doing okay, thanks. Eventually she'd come into the kitchen and snuffle up the minced onions that had fallen on the floor and spit them back out. I have totally noticed how dirty the kitchen floor has gotten without my little dustbuster, and I had to laugh at that. 

Biscuits2 When I was growing up, my father was a working musician by night and a commercial artist by day. For many years, he drew pictures for the Sears catalog. He and my mom met in their early twenties when they both took a drawing class at the Art Institute in Chicago. He was a tough critic. He did not like "sketchy" lines, the ones that are sort of wispy and sketchy, hairy lines, so I learned never to use those, and I still don't. I liked to draw those things where you enlarge a picture on a grid, drawing each square for itself alone. There was one I did of a Durer rabbit — it was like a puzzle. They chopped it up and gave you all the squares, all mixed up, and you drew them one by one in the right places, waiting to see what it was going to be. There's something to be said for the method. I remember I'd left the rabbit drawing by my dad's chair when I was done, and the next morning I woke up and went to look at it again and he'd written "Good. —Dad" at the top with a marker. I'm just going to work on my little squares and see how it all turns out.

Miss Beautiful Wonderful

comments: 266

Ah, friends, here we are. We're still here. All is well.

It's a gorgeous morning. Green things are dappled golden and fall is in the yard (I was talking with my friend Sarah the other night and mentioned that fall was close and she said, "Don't you dare use that four-letter F-word!" which made me laugh). But fall is in the yard, and I am glad. I am ready for this difficult summer to be over, ready to even be someone different, myself. There's a stripey cat sitting in the living room, looking at me, and she is different. There's a little calico cat creeping along the top of my new sofa, which arrived yesterday, and she is different. She keeps meowing at me. She's prodding the sofa with her tiny paw — What is this now? — and we're all doing that here, gently poking at our territory. What is this, quiet house, quiet yard, the quiet dog bed I can't bear to put away?

Thank you again for all of your kindnesses, so many tender little gestures, stitching up our broken hearts with the softest, nicest threads and tender little blanket stitches so things won't leak out or fray. I'm so overwhelmed. We read every word of the comments and emails, together, and received all the voicemails and hugs and cookies and flowers and plums and dumplings, and picked up our mail at the P.O. box yesterday, and, over and over again, we were moved to tears by just how kind people are, the ones we know and the ones we don't, and how similarly we all feel about the little animals that we are privileged to take care of for a while. It was a privilege to share Audrey here, the most liberating and embarrassing kind of indulgence that you really can't help expressing, like gushing about a crush to anyone who will listen. For I was infatuated with that dog. I loved her from the day we met her. And even now, six years later, I would only have to look at her to feel that flutter, to throw myself on the floor in a swoon and kiss her soft, soft forehead, and ask her if she loved me, too. But it was just a game I played. I knew about her. That dog loved everything, and with such sincerity. Her enthusiasm, her beauty, her sweetness, her generosity — whenever someone would come over, she would, within ten minutes (after what mauling as could be accomplished via four-inch-long legs), be lying contentedly under their chair, no questions asked. She didn't wonder if you were a dog person, she didn't wonder if you liked her, she didn't care about the stupid crap you'd said or done. Welcome to the family, she said. You belong here. I'll take care of you. I think that dog brought out the best in Andy and in me. She taught us how we want to be, though we still have so far to go.

I think it takes a while for it all to sink in. You sort of just don't believe it, at first. It feels impossible, like you can't get it all straight. We were so lucky to have several days, Andy and I, where we did nothing but talk, and walk, and think about what had just happened. We said a million words. It had to have been a million. I cried openly in public places and didn't care. But they were sacred places that I'm sure have seen many a tear, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Rose Garden, Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo, the Be Good Tanyas concert, the Clackamas County Fair. The pioneer village at the Clackamas County Fair. The rodeo. The 4-H cake decorating contest. The dairy barn as I stroked the soft, soft black muzzle of an eight-month-old little black cow. All those places welcomed us this week, for we did not want to be home. And everywhere we went, people were so kind. We thought about how you should always tread softly, in every encounter, because you do not know what people are going through that day. They probably aren't crying in public with their shirt buttoned incorrectly, as I am, but I never have been able to make a secret of my sadnesses. So I am grateful for every kindness we encountered, because we felt quite wounded then.

But mostly I am grateful that we were able to have that strange, unreal empty time that was filled with only the two of us again, really, though we never felt alone. Now it is back to work, a new routine, a new season and new things to be. She did not like it when we were sad, would go hide somewhere until we'd cut it out and get it together. So we're doing that now, Auds. We're doing that. It's okay. Good girl.

Oh, good dog.

Thank you.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, for each and every kind word, nod, tear, and prayer sent up for Audrey and for us in the past week. At the end of Thursday, Andy and I sat together on the couch and read every single one of them that had come in so far, and looked at all of your names. It took hours and hours. Andy kept reciting locations, softly, out loud, anytime anyone would mention where they were writing from and at some point I realized that he was sort of building a net of clouds, from points near and far, all that love for the little ones, lifting lifting lifting. It seemed to me that Audrey must surely be okay then, with all that love and softness, and we felt it all wrap around us, in the gloaming. When I looked up, the little house was completely dark. Someone'd said that the wishes, all the comments were like candles, all tiny little candles, and for a moment I saw them, and yes, the house looked so pretty like that.

I feel that if I start writing I might not stop, so many things I am thinking, of Audrey and really the spirit of love that Audrey was, and how the world works. All I know about is the love part. The world does its thing, regardless of what I think of that. I don't have a clue about it. But the love — my faith in that will not be shaken. And I do feel shaky. But I think it's just trembling with love, not fear. Though when you're walking out of the vet's office, you're shocked that you're still alive. How did it not kill you. I guess the love keeps you walking. Either that or you're being carried and it just looks like you're walking.

What I want to say today is just thank you. I wish there was a better, bigger word for that. Every time I shuffle through my brain for what that word would be I never can find it there, so I just say thank you, and hope you know.

comments: 1325

I don't know how to say this. Audrey passed away yesterday because what we'd thought was some back trouble was really cancer on her spine and throughout her abdomen. When we went for the MRI it was clear that it was not what anyone had thought. Things got so bad so fast we are bewildered and heartbroken. We had to put her to sleep and were there with her when she left. I felt like it was all a dream, but today she is not here. I know that everyone loved Audrey and could see how special she was. I whispered the love from around the world to her. I know she felt it. I want to believe she is running on the beach like she was in this video from last summer. We will always love you, Audrey.

Twinkle Twinkle

comments: 162

Aprons2 Well, still needing some time away. Audrey hurt her back a few weeks ago and is having a hard time. After several consultations with our vet, an MRI is scheduled for Wednesday.

If you can think good thoughts, or say a little prayer, or wish upon tonight's first star, we could sure use some love over here for our girl. Thanks, guys. xo

Heart-Shaped Interlude

comments: 55

Waffles2

I made some waffles for you because I'm going to take a blog-break  for the rest of the week as I cobble my wits together and get all the parts and pieces straight. Thank you for your kind comments and the extra emails with offers of assistance, interest, and support — sweet sweet sweet people. I'm privileged to share this experience with you. Your enthusiasm means so much to me, butter and syrup in the nooks and crannies of my heart. Thank you.

Take it easy out there — and I'll see ya Monday. xoxo

Shopping and Propping and Hopping

comments: 57

Model1_2 I spent all day yesterday at the mall, shopping for clothes and props for the photo shoots for the book. If you're going to be a stylist, I would think you'd truly have to love to shop. Luckily, I enjoy it. The shoots haven't started yet, but they'll be starting soon. This is a shot of a photo on my bulletin board of one of my models, Nicole. I worked with her several years ago on a shoot we did with the talented photographer Brian McDonnell, Elizabeth Dye's exquisite fairy-tale clothes, and some tiny handbags I used to make. Nicole has an inquisitive, gentle quality that compliments the projects I'm designing. There's a quietness to her beauty that I find very appealing. Isn't she pretty?

We're doing everything on a tight budget, with family and friends modeling and lending locations and props. Twenty-five of the thirty projects are finished, so I'm starting to have a better idea of what models will be photographed with which projects, what locations we'll use, what props are necessary, what clothes they need, all that stuff. It's been almost impossible for me to think "photos" while still thinking "patterns," though the deadline is so tight I've kind of had to. But now that I'm in the homestretch, I can see things coming together. It's exhilarating, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a nervous-making way, to have so much creative control and responsibility. It keeps me hopping. I was going to haul things and peeps out to Astoria, but I've changed my mind about that — just too logistically complicated, though I really did have visions of Nicole on Kathleen's yellow bicycle by the sea, holding the Road-Trip Handbag, sigh. There are kids and babies involved, and then there's me frequently acting like a baby, so things have to be simple. I think now that most of the photos will be done here at Posie Manor (painting/repainting certain little walls between photos, to get the background colors right), and the rest around town (anyone know of a cool, old-fashioned Laundromat?).

Anyway, deep breath. And a big thank you to Andy, Julie, my two moms, Ellen, Sarah, and Shelly, who've put up with me pretty much every day all summer and not complained once. To my face. For which I am sincerely grateful.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.