the first day of Spring.
We woke to a light dusting of
snow and are a bit disappointed by yet
another cloudy day. But it is, after all, March in
New Hampshire and we are experiencing
a global pandemic. So the fact that
The Green is empty and
stores are closed
The narcissus may
be done, but they are still
making lemon curd at Umpleby's
and we are still eating bananas. In the
midst of disappointed teenagers
at home, I return, as always,
to the colors, shapes &
textures of my
for this pile is deep.
Year after year it transforms
waste into nourishment for gardens
while at the same time inviting me to be
patient, get my hands dirty, and
remember that sometimes
life is really messy.
As if by
creativity emerges over
and over again out of the apparent
mess. It should be no surprise to you, then,
that I have more photographs of coffee filters. Who
knows how long the supply will last, but they
are such a simple way for me to connect
with my sister, Sarah Swett, who
keeps making things out of
these funny pieces
I pay closer attention
to what was once just another
part of the waste I collected each week
from Umpleby's Bakery & Cafe
in Hanover, NH. Coffee
filters, it turns out
It's so much
more than textures
& subtle muted
these filters seemed
to talk to me earlier today,
and made me laugh as I folded
them & prepared to mail
them to my sister
so funny, how
I packaged them up,
but am waiting two weeks
to send them, for fear I might have
The Virus and might unknowingly mail it to
my sister whose husband has cancer and definitely
can't get this thing. So once again my compost
and all its associated projects invite
patience and humor. This
really is all quite
though we may be
thousands of miles apart,
we are together, exploring these
funny pieces of paper and
wondering what will
emerge from it
I finish this blog
post, I will go upstairs to
cut our daily grapefruit - one for
each member of the family every day for
as long as supplies last. During times of stress and
uncertainty, I like routines. I like this habit of culling & cleaning
coffee filters to send to my sister. I like making something healthy for our family
on a regular basis. And I like making sure we laugh about the fact it's a
Thursday & my kids are eating breakfast at 2 pm just when
I'm having my mid afternoon snack. It's all
part of a new routine and I'm
OK with all of that...
it is March and
even though it seems dark
and gray and lonely to be stuck at
home, I know that the bulbs will emerge
from the frozen earth & spring will
come, because that's nature's
routine, and I'm good
It is still
Month...so let's support
each other as much as we can
from afar. For inspiration of all kinds,
check out my friend Jennifer Jewell's Podcast
Cultivating Place - - The January episodes were all
about the therapeutic and spiritual capacities
of our gardens - in all their forms. We
need that now, more
I have been thinking
about fixing and mending.
To me, fixing involves a tool kit used
to solve a specific problem which, when repaired,
provides a clear solution. Once fixed, we
move on, glad that the problem
has been resolved.
a few days ago when our
furnace stopped working and two
guys came to repair it. It took some time
to diagnose the actual problem, but with their tool
kit in hand, they solved the issue. Done.
House warm again. We move
on with our day.
which, for me,
involved mending - an
act that feels different from fixing.
Yes, there is a problem to solve - a lost button or
holes in a pair of joggers - But the problem
does not feel urgent, like a furnace
not working in the middle
of yesterday's mending
pile, for example, consisted of
things with problems we had been living
with for years...literally. This tie on this vintage duvet
cover had been broken for longer than I can
remember, as had the missing button
on another duvet cover
in the pile.
does not have
to be perfect, either.
Clearly, my stitches on the
duvet are a bit messy and the button
and thread color do not match
what was there before on
this night shirt.
was simple: Get
the job done & move on. That's
what I do in January. Finish projects,
clean up, clear out, and, as if often the case, mend
things, whether a missing button, a huge rip in my favorite
gardening clothes, my son's joggers,
or, perhaps, even the
I started to mend the
huge rip on the back side of these
overalls, I got distracted, as can happen sometimes,
and decided to add some color, because, as it turns out, I had been
consolidating our thread collection earlier in the week and
happen to have found this fabulous
green (ooh I love run-
And I thought
it would be fun to add
some curves to this otherwise
set of straight lines. So suddenly my 'get-
the job done' mending turned into
something else entirely.
entranced by the
colors, shapes and textures
that emerged. I know. These joggers
are completely absent of
textures were so
cool and the feeling of the
wool fabric I used to repair the holes
so soft, I just had to share these
images and this project
I realized, in the
midst of it all, that mending
is about tending to an ongoing relationship
with something or someone, whether it's a piece
of clothing, your dog or your son. Yes, there is a particular
problem that emerges at the moment, but in the process of mending
it, you change the actual structure of that which is being
mended by adding thread, new fabric, new
colors or new shapes.
it turns out,
you can change the
structure of yourself as well.
Or at least, that's what happens to
me when I sit and sew. I hang out with my
dog, who hangs out with me. We both breath more
slowly. I have no idea what he thinks about,
but I stay focused on each stitch,
mindfully mending in
as I sew on buttons
and patch holes in joggers,
I'm thinking, always thinking, about
all those big issues out there in the world
for which we want a quick a fix, but which, in my
heart, I know may not be able to be fixed with a single tool
box at a single moment. The problems we face are just too big. But
it helps me to address them when I adopt a mending state of mind. Knowing
we will be in this for a while, I focus on relationships of all kinds and not
worry about perfection by knowing what is good enough
and by making sure I am open to altering my
plans by adding color here
came home with us after
Thanksgiving in CT. It sat on
started to wilt and I
noticed the texture of the
drying petals and the play of light
from different angles.
even when tossed into
I've actually never
really liked roses. They're
hard to grow and their thorns
hurt. It has always struck me as odd
that a flower that can cause pain would be
one so many use to express love.
Though maybe that's the
point. Love hurts.
in the compost pile,
though, I fell in love with
the roses. They seduced me and
inspired me to hang out
with them, despite
cold fingers &
far to arrive fresh
in Connecticut in late
November. Perhaps it is
out of respect for their journey
that I can't take my eyes
off them - even when
things get a bit
& gets mixed & mingled
with the coffee and
these roses, determined
to not get left behind or forgotten.
They refuse to be outdone
by the dryer lint, kale,
or banana peels.
why love and roses
go together. If we pay attention,
it's not the rose at first glance, it's the rose
that still captivates as it evolves,
edges drying and petals
falling off. For me,
for my family.
Love for my friends.
Love for the earth that sustains
us. Even when tested and tossed around
a bit, real love persists, captivates, and has the
power to transform all those paying
attention to it.
my blog or following
me on Instagram, you'll know
that I was planning to include my altered
Cotillion Dress in my current
solo show at AVA
If you've been
to AVA to find the dress,
you'll know that it's
me how the creative
process works, and how hard
it can be to separate one thread from
another when they all feel
integral to each
evolved from last
year's curiosity about how
I could share Walt Whitman's poem
"This Compost" in a colorful and affordable
manner by embroidering it on old
things, like a pillowcase or
a cloth diaper from
I listened to numerous
podcasts about art, women,
the climate crisis, racial justice and
the idea of white fragility. Each voice I heard
inspired me to rethink my past and
my relationship to it. And then
I remembered the white
dress in the attic...
it all began
because I love the
colors of compost and so
started taking pictures of it all the
time...until, magically, I had
what they call a 'body
of work' worth
what you love most just
has to stay home. In this case, I am
grateful that I gave my work to the Exhibits
Director at AVA and let her decide. The dress, even
though it seemed essential to the show for
me, just didn't fit and would have
been a distraction.
I am grateful
to this beautiful piece
of silk and lace for inviting me
to explore my own identity as a creative
person, not just with a camera,
but in life. The dress, as
cotton object that rips
when I touch it. It's
just a t-shirt,
No. It's more.
It contains memories:
My first years of marriage;
Playing squash with my husband;
Being in my 20's and feeling
invincible; It's so much
more than just
near and far, I got
out a needle, some light
purple thread, and got to work.
I want to wear this fragile
cotton shirt again.
I love it. It's
in our throw-away
society, mending matters.
And because it's cool
the art of
also known as Sashiko
When I love
something, I care for it.
When I love someone, I care
for them. Love takes time and patience.
It can be messy and slow and it
is always imperfect. But
it's possible. We just
have to show up
have a sense of humor.
For 26 years, I have only seen
colors, shapes, & an artist's signature.
When I told my husband about this project,
he asked: "Oh, your dancer shirt?"...
"My what? No, the one with
cool colors and
It turns out I had never
actually paid as close attention to
this shirt I love as much as my husband had.
Sometimes I guess we just see what we see. What's
cool is that I didn't feel anything like a
dancer back in the 1990's, but
I definitely do today. It's
now more perfect
to my mother for
teaching me how to sew.
Happy Mother's Day
I love climbing tree limbs and ladders.
I love curves, lines and textures.
There is something reassuring about light on metal...
and the reality that even with three inches of insulation, some heat gets lost.
It's hard to believe
that there are imperfections
with these perfect symmetries and designs.
But there are. Energy can not be created nor destroyed,
but it can be transferred between objects,
along the way.
just the reality of
how things work and why, even
with a relatively upgraded heating system, this vent
on the north side of our living room
doesn't provide much
Isn't it beautiful
to see the unseen, to honor
what is functional and elegant? That's
what climate action at home
is all about for me.
Celebrated in the UK. For
most people it means a day to hang
out with family, eat leftovers and enjoy gifts
given and received. But historically, it was also a day
to give "Christmas Boxes" to the servants, who would go home
and celebrate Christmas with their own families after
having cared for you on the 25th.
Or, perhaps the
term 'Boxing Day' comes
from the nautical tradition whereby
great sailing ships carried a sealed box of money
for good luck which, upon return, would be given to a priest
who would distribute the money to those in
need on the day after Christmas.
Here in New England,
we get back to work - - there is
no "Bank Holiday" for us. But over the past
decade, I have created my own "Boxing Day" tradition.
Photographs that are labels on Christmas Day, or beautiful holiday cards
become decorations on a box the next. And all that wrapping
paper gets a longer life, glued to a sneaker
box or packing box and used
year after year.
It started with
a desire to save paper and
reduce holiday waste. But over time,
it became something more - - A kind of compulsion
to fix what I had using materials at hand -
not just cards and paper,
but fabric as well.
One year, I redid
our recycling container.
The next, I created boxes to use
for grocery shopping. They were so admired
at our food co-op, I made some as gifts
for the clerks. Apparently one of
the boxes is now the bed
for a very happy cat.
What makes me happiest,
is that my son and daughter love to
find their custom gift boxes under the tree.
No need for labels. And certainly no
need for new wrapping paper.
It's become a tradition - -
own Boxing Day.
To me, that's what makes our
current time so inspiring. There are opportunities
for the creative re-making of the world as we know it.
As I discovered with a bunch of cards, paper
and fabric, beauty is everywhere.
What might you create or
discover this last
The Spruce: What is Boxing Day?
Why is this blog called By Degrees? Because...
Change happens in increments...until it doesn't;
We need to look at the world from many angles;
More people experience damage to their tissue because of the sun's increased power;
There are many educated people with lots of diplomas,
yet we still can't get along or figure out how to solve our current climate crisis;
There is a difference between 2 and 1.5 degrees celsius.
Maybe it's time to literally 'reframe' the narrative.
Why not have a proverbial 'do-over' and see what emerges?
We have degrees.
We are separated by just a few degrees.
We can have a 10 degree perspective or a 360 degree perspective.
We feel the heat.
It's time to look within and recompose our shared story.
Because change happens in logical steps and stages...
until it doesn't.
Evelyn R. Swett celebrates
how creativity and climate action converge to inspire transformation and joy.
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