Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Home is Where the Cat Is

High plains in Montana

I went home to Montana this past weekend for the first time in forever, to the little town of Shelby, for an all-class reunion. Such a flood of we left and headed toward the Rockies, things converged inside me and outside in that incredible light that only Montana possesses, and that special atmosphere of the high plains. Amid some tears, this poem came to me. If it's not very good, that's okay--I'm pretty certain nobody will read it.

Still, it was necessary to get the words out and onto paper. I only wish this blog-program would conform to the way it was written without having to reduce the type to a point where it's unreadable. But what am I worried about anyway?

Rediscovered Country

In the vastness of the Northern Plains, I was raised,
A land of uncompromising and astonishing remoteness,
Where the only certainties are a cutting wind and a clean sky,
And that long stretch of country holding the horizon as far as human vision reaches.

A place of grudging magnificence and profundity--some would say a wasteland--
Where emptiness and silence roll out like a blanket of riddles 
Across the broken coulees and bluffs,
Abrupt and precipitous amid the endless waving grasses.

River breaks, their cottonwood banks a surprise 
Of inscrutable green in the tawny heat,
Give way, after a swift respite, to the clanging sun, 
Until the distant and crumpled strata of the Front
Arise to contradict the flatland without equivocation.

Great fractures created by the forces of compression and thrust-faulting 
As tectonic plates crashed together,
This insurrection of stone was further altered by massive continental ice sheets,
Scouring the plains and carving the piles of solidified sediment 
Into cirques and arêtes,
Gouging out great attenuated valleys where lakes of cold, clear water lie, 
Connected by silver streams like beads upon a strand of silk.

It is no land for the fainthearted, or the weak, this place of daunting geology.
One must seek diligently beneath the surface for its secrets—
And oh, yes, there are many,
Whispering on the breath of autumn as it sprints unhindered across the plains
In the middle of July,
Or in the rush of some unnamed brook in spring-spate, 
Leaping gleefully out of its banks.

Within the thunder, sudden and unanticipated as it reverberates
Down a narrow valley and across the surface of a lake,
Are the voices of time, murmuring yesterday into eternity.

I breathe deeply of the electric air. Somewhere, there is lightning.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ravens at Kelso: a Poem

My dad's family came from this area in Scotland. Kelso Abbey was one of the great abbeys in the Scottish Borders razed by Henry VIII during the period of the "Rough Wooing".

I'll never forget being there, and the great black birds croaking among the ruins and the headstones. Here is a poem I wrote about our visit.

Established in 1128
Ravens at Kelso Abbey
by Gayle Weatherson

I heard them croak in Kelso’s ancient kirkyard,

Among the flinty ruins of the abbey:

Rasping cries from tree to tree, echoing stone to stone

Like knives cutting through the silent morning.

The swoop and glide of dark feathers;

A glimpse of wing and flash of tail,

Sharp against the pale grey pearl of sky;

The curving whisper of air displacement

As one lit upon a bough of twisted pine.

A single feather fluttered,
black as night, beneath the tree,

An obsidian blade shining sable on the green green grass,

Although there was no sun.

The Abbey



Monday, October 6, 2014

Gàidhlig Language Acquisition and Spaghetti al Dente: An Analogy

So...(I promised myself a long time ago that I would never begin anything with the word "so". So it was, but is no more...)

So, I'm learning Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), and have been "learning" it for six years. Given that I've had fewer than twenty-five days of actual classtime over the course of those six years (with furious bouts of directionless study in bewtween), it's amazing I know anything at all. I live out in the wilderness--an fhàsach--without access to a regular class until very recently, when I finally signed up for a weekly Skype class from Caroline Root. It was an excellent decision, despite my reluctance to adopt new-for-me technology. Just having weekly sessions, a wee bit of homework each week, and listening to and speaking in the language despite my mumbling reticence, has been a marvelous way to open new pathways in that darkening grey matter I call a brain.

It has helped me to see the huge gaps in my understanding, as well as some of my strengths (few, those). It has also caused me hope that with enough diligent work I might achieve a modicum of fluency before I die. That, and asking for help when I need it, from the generous community of Gàidhlig teachers and learners out there. We are, in essence, in the same bàta.

However, learning a new language at the age of sixty is not the same as learning one at six. Of course it's not. It's rather like spaghetti as one ages. One tests whether the noodles are done by throwing a few of them at the wall and if they stick, it's ready to serve. Or maybe it's the other way around...At any rate, that's what language acquisition is--you throw a handful of words at a brain, and some of them stick. Many of them don't, but you keep at it. My brain is a pretty slippery little nugget.

But I realized long ago that learning this beautiful old language--the reasons for which are as complicated as the language's history itself--is worth pursing for no other reason than to do a tiny wee bit in helping save it from oblivion. I would like fluency one day, but I'm old and may never reach that pinnacle.

Like these drawings that are unfinished, learning is never a done deal. Nevertheless, I'll keep at it.

Alba a' feitheamh (Scotland Waiting)

(The Unicorn has since been completed)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Alba, My Alba

Bratach na h-Alba
So this is it. It was it, Scotland’s chance at self-determination, blown away like thistledown on the winds of despair and fear. This little blue flame that had so much potential to become a beacon of democracy for the world has been snuffed out and the world can now get on with the business of spiraling into the shithole it has made for itself. Just a blip on the screen of darkness. So much for the chimes of freedom.
They may ring again one day, but probably not in my lifetime. The Unicorn is still chained.

 The Bee at Culloden
Saor Alba

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summary of An Interesting Year Or So: Runrig, Oregon Coast, Tucson, Hawaii, Montana

Well...It has been some time since I've written a blog post. A great deal has happened since I retired from teaching.

Probably the most significant was our August trip to Scotland to see Runrig for their 40th anniversary celebration at the "Party On The Moor", held near Inverness. We stayed in Edinburgh for a few days, taking a day-trip to Sterling Castle and the Glen Goyne Distillery, going on a tour of the Scottish Parliament (Parlamaid na h-Alba), and mingling with the Fringe crowd before taking the train north to Inverness for another few days and the concert.

The performance was amazing and I still can't believe we were there. What a special, awesome night! Julie Fowlis was MC (and she sang a number with the band too), Mànran provided a fantastic performance, along with a few other topnotch groups, and then the lads were on. Arthur Cormack was standing about two yards behind me throughout the concert, and James Graham was on our train. (Of course they didn't have a clue who I was, and I managed not to accost them.)

The "lads"
We then visited Oban for a few days, took a tour to Mull and Iona, walked all over, took thousands of photos, and carried home the best of memories.
It was the Oregon Coast during the holidays--that quiet week between Christmas and New Year. Relaxing and beautiful, there were people surfing in the glorious weather. Tides were extreme that week.

The spiral stairs at Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Lace falling water
In February we traveled to Tucson for the gem and mineral show, (where I spent too much money). We got to visit the Sonora Desert Museum and the mission of San Xavier del Bac--both moving places. The sky is so incredibly blue.

Negative space


Sonoran Desert

In April, just after we started a kitchen remodel and had a flood downstairs, we flew to Maui. I didn't think I'd love as much as I did--and do. What a beautiful island.

P.T. Fleming Beach

Island Light

Moving Water
This last Sunday we got back from a week in Montana. It was good to be home, and we got a chance to visit with family.

Lake McDonald

Colorful rocks and clear water

Rain on water
It's been a good year in other ways too: I got my braces off and survived oral surgery (lots of blood and bruising), and the kitchen is done. Now to get the house back together.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Processes of Reclamation

I decided I needed to do something with my old fine silver scrap. Torching it into dirty balls of casting grain didn't seem like enough because they just sat there in a little box gathering dust. So I torched the scrap into blobs, put them into the tumbler, and started hammering them flat. Then I textured them between layers of old t-shirt with a hammer, finished the edges, polished them, drilled them for jump-rings, and finally dapped them into subtle domes. It's an interesting process and I like the results.

scrap ready for torching

that bright orange glow

in the quench

before tumbling

after tumbling 
before and after hammering

some finished pieces, textured, stamped, drilled, and domed

This is my process for the reclamation of fine-silver scrap. I have some nice pieces, where it was useless junk before. If I don't like the way something turns out, I can always remelt it and start over.