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
that 20 people would
show up for Hanover's inaugural
Community Climate Conversation? With just
a few hand-made notices around town
and in a few social media outlets,
we drew a small crowd.
How cool is that?
what does the climate
have to do with fashion and clothing?
As it turns out, more than most of us know or understand.
Apparel and footwear accounted for 8% of global greenhouse gas
emissions in 2016 (more carbon than international flights
and maritime shipping), is the second largest
consumer of the world's water supply,
and pollutes oceans with micro-
plastics and rivers with
are also something
we wear every day and that can
often make our day. I know that is the case
for me. My black boots give a kick to my step and my
long purple wool cardigan embraces me and gives me confidence.
There is no reason to feel bad about dressing in garments
that make us feel good. Our challenge is learning
how to wear clothes that both feel
great and don't harm
I loved hearing
Kim Souza, owner of
Revolution (in White River
Junction, VT) talk about how she
curates her store. While some dresses
or fun socks might sell big, she will not sell them
if they are not made in the US or ethically produced.
Joan Ecker, Founder of Fat Hat Clothing,
shared valuable insights about the
costs of clothing production
and the dangers of
the best part of the
evening. Here were a bunch
of people, some more interested in
'fashion' than others, who came together
to begin a conversation about climate that actually
started with what we were wearing. By
sharing stories about our clothes
in an informal setting we got
to know each other in a
different kind of
Just as one
wool sweater is
not the same as another
(was the wool sustainably harvested,
were the sheep treated well, were the people
who assembled the garment paid a living wage?),
no two people have the same relationship to their wardrobes
and how their clothes make them feel. Like so much
in the climate conversation, there is always
more than meets the eye. Can you tell,
for example, that this ancient &
beloved turtleneck was
In my last
blog post, Compost,
Fiber and Fashion, I considered
the power of re-imagining my clothes and,
in the process, re-imagining myself. At their heart,
these reflections come from my ongoing concern for and
fascination with waste, not just of food, but of
everything. My mother-in-law saved
her hems, because she hated
things going to waste.
I repaired this
twenty-four year old
wool turtleneck sweater I bought
at a street fair in Germany because I love it,
and it seemed wasteful to find another one when I
could mend this one. It seems to me that how we connect
to our clothing may perhaps reflect how we think
not just about ourselves, but also about
what it means to be wasteful
I hope that
our first Community
Climate Conversation inspires
those who attended to think more deeply
about what they wear. More importantly, though,
I hope our laughter invites others to join these gatherings,
knowing that we find joy and have fun while
paying attention to topics that we
know about and love.
Next Community Climate Conversation:
What's the Story of OUR Stuff?
(bring an object you love)
March 3, 2020 @ Still North Books, Hanover, NH
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Facilitator: Marc Morgan
(By day, the manager of Lebanon, NH's solid waste facility;
By night, an advocate for deeper thinking
about what we consume
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
This was my view a few
days ago while hanging the laundry.
It takes my breath away every
time I go onto our
in a great mood
because I had set the day aside
to work on a major embroidery project
I'm exploring this
kept getting in the way.
You know how it can be - managing the
compost, changing toilet-paper rolls, drinking water
to stay hydrated on a hot day, cleaning up
after the dog made a mistake...
and, of course, doing
I think I was
able to finish about
half a leaf between each
interruption. By the time I went
out to hang the laundry, I was feeling
really frustrated by how slow my progress was.
I'd been feeling bad about other things too. Like the fact
I hadn't written a blog post for more than a
month and that I hadn't finished
the next playbook
in my series.
But while standing
on the terrace and hearing the
baby birds and seeing a monarch butterfly
head toward the volunteer milkweed in the orchard
we planted, I remembered that not long ago,
none of this was here: no terrace, solar
panels, shrubs or perennials, and
no monarchs or baby birds
learning to sing.
I also remembered
how exciting it was to see
these peonies and iris bloom together
after we had transplanted them that first year
with the terrace garden - that
was 8 years ago.
I have to remind myself
that over time, lots of little actions
accumulate and become something larger
than themselves. A single stone becomes a terrace. A
single flower becomes a garden. A single
stitch in a small leaf becomes a
just have to consciously
remember how things really work,
which is why when I dumped the compost and
took yet another photograph, I remembered the power of
showing up and of big little things. 10 pounds of compost a week
adds up to 500 pounds a year -- a ton over four years.
That's a lot of food diverted from the landfill.
It's also a lot of photographs
So this week
I'm celebrating Big Little
Things. Like the fact that after creating
thousands of Compost Compositions, I finally have
two in a juried show this summer and I'll have a few dozen in
a solo show this fall - - All at AVA Gallery in Lebanon,
NH. Friends told me that if I kept showing
up for my work and for myself,
cool things would happen.
They were right.
the simple climate
action of composting would
lead me to become a photographer?
Who knew that photographing that compost
could lead to learning about embroidery and the craft
of remaking old clothes? Who knew that the
act of remaking old things would
inspire new ways of thinking
and new ways
the Big Little Things
in your day or your week?
Remember: When you show up for
yourself and those you love,
cool things can
Messages for the Future @ AVA Gallery
AVA's 2019 Summer Juried Exhibition
July 12 - August 21
Monday Morning's Activities (not listed above):
Writing & mailing post cards to daughter and mother-in-law;
Emptying the dehumidifier in my basement studio;
Packing up some college supplies for a friend, who happens to be passing through, to take down to DC so that we won't have so much to manage in August when our son goes to college there;
Managing a broken nail that I got while packing those supplies;
Receiving a packet of pachysandra from a neighbor with whom I had just spoken during my morning walk - - She mentioned she had more pachysandra than she needed; I mentioned I could use some. I thought the plan was for me to go over and harvest it. What a gift!
And it all happened between 9am and 1pm.
I wore these
boots from November
to May this year. Finally, a few weeks
ago, they went into the storage box, from which my
summer sandals and other cooler shoes emerged. Time for the
seasonal assessment. If I haven't worn something for
a year or if it doesn't work anymore,
it goes in the spring give
think, with 26 pairs
of work boots, athletic shoes,
dress shoes and casual shoes, I'd have
enough. But I don't. My athletic shoes are worn out
and I've never really found the 'just right' pair
of casual sneakers...and with this
trip to London, it became
clear that I needed
I'm focused on shoes
and clothes with a story. If they
haven't been well worn by another before
me, I want to know that the materials
used are ethically sourced, the
stitches made with care,
and the resources
there I was, in Kentish
Town, London, at The Third Estate,
on whose racks and shelves are clothes, shoes,
bags and socks made with love. Each
brand, it seems, has its own
story to tell.
So I had some fun.
Light or dark Ethletic Fair Trade Vegan Sustainable Trainers?
Breathable and light
"BreLite Collection" shoes
whose soles come from recycled
tires and uppers are handspun cotton.
They truly are the lightest shoes
ever - - only 250 grams!
A perfect travel
up with dark, cute,
comfy and filled with love.
They make me feel like I'm flying.
Maybe that's why The Third
Estate has a bird on
what I'm learning
about this thing called
"Slow Fashion." It's not about
how fast something is made, it's about the
stories embedded in each fiber and in the transaction
itself. Angela, who helped me, wanted me to
feel good. She knew about each
shoe company and
Most shopping expeditions
leave me exhausted, but after I left yesterday,
I found myself in an unexpected area, ready to explore.
Who knew that by going to The Third Estate,
I would also experience this
colorful and nuanced
part of town?
seemed so quiet and
peaceful, but then I followed
the curve of and light on this living building...
curious as I tend to be, about the
relationship between the
...and I found
myself in an entirely
unexpected place, where the
buildings were alive in
a different kind
So I guess
shoes really are a
thing for me. Comfortable
feet matter but so does my actual
footprint. I think it's cool
when I can care
for slow fashion,
meandering explorations, and
the simple joy of taking
time to care.
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
the light shine!
It's daylight savings time.
And maybe, just maybe, the snow
will melt by April and the
will be above
Green New Deal, Part 2,
I get real about our energy conservation
at home. And since we're talking
about light, I thought I'd
We have lots
of them - 67 in fact -
that are essential sources of
light and stunning ways to frame
views of our garden and Vermont. But
in terms of energy, even our 15
year old double-paned
Over the years,
we have slowly added
insulated and other shades to
help keep the house warm in winter
and cool in summer. Some are even color
coordinated, while others are thin,
cheap roll-ups. We even
have plastic in the
have a hodge-podge.
Of course, my favorites are the
ones I made when first married in 1992 and
the re-used ones from my grandmother's house that
I found in her attic when she died and then
hung in our living room a decade
ago - - just to try
I've been thinking
about the idea of 'window
dressing,' of giving a superficial, but
misleading impression. Most of the 1930's New
Deal murals I studied in college (see last week's blog
post, My Green New Deal, Part 1) were colorful
celebrations of the American Dream,
a dream that for millions of
people at that time
was a broken
I feel surrounded by
broken promises - - The dream
of a house, but no one tells you how much
money it takes to maintain it; The dream of filling the
house with things you need and love, but no advertisement
reveals the true cost and impact of those objects.
So now we have ten years to adapt to
the realities caused by our
Ok. That is way
too heavy and way too
guilt-ridden for my tastes. So
let's go back to light, color, texture
and the glorious convergence of creativity
and climate action. I love this time of year. It's still
cold and inside projects still beckon, like
making the curtains in my studio
warmer by sewing old linen
napkins onto them...
our family's Green New
Deal. We have a decade to make
the rest of our 67 windows as energy efficient
as they can be. To achieve that goal, we will take stock
of what needs to be done, prioritize and make a
plan. For now, though, I will continue to
appreciate this crazy mix of window
'dressings' that continue to
keep us warm and I will
keep noticing the
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.
Evelyn R. Swett
reframing the narrative in community and with myself, finding transformation and joy in the mess of it all
is a bi-weekly viewsletter that hopefully inspires joy & transformation. It will include links to recent blog posts, updates about my work, and, best of all, inspirational action prompts for you to explore your creativity and passion for the world you love. Oh, and I promise I won't share your information (that would be so uncool) and I don't actually do promotions, but that text is required.