Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lebanon weekend

When you live in a flat desert, the main priority for foreign travel is to go up and be amongst trees. Therefore, I booked us a trip to the Shouf Cedar Reserve during our free day in Lebanon.
The landscape along the way was spectacular, full of vegetable farms, terraced hills, olive trees and juniper-lined roads.
The air was fresh and chilly at the Cedar Reserve, 2500 m. above sea level. We went for a nice long hike, up and down lots of hills.  Our leg muscles seemed to remember how to do that.
The landscape was unlike any I'd ever walked: a combination of rugged rock and rich, muddy earth, rolling away toward the sea in a Biblical sweep.
And the trees.......
We've encountered holy cedar trees in vastly different parts of the world: Redwoods in California fog, Sugi on the island of Yakishima in Japan, Shukpa in the high altitidues of Ladakh, India - all ancient and evocative. Wherever the cedar grows, it is revered by the local people and recognized as a venerable presence. I've seen the tree in the middle of the Lebanese flag the whole time we've lived over here, but never before knew it was a cedar.
(some newer plantation)
Right in here, the air was full of cedar aroma.
The Lebanese cedars have a dramatic profile, holding out their branches like uplifted palms of hands.
Was this enough communing with nature? 
Well, not quite, but we had to move on and head back to Beirut
We stopped in Deir-al-Qamar, an old, spring-fed mountain town with architecture from centuries past.
We were immediatly plied with delicacies from this man's trunk.  He fed us enough almonds, figs, and nougat sweets to fill us completely in lieu of lunch, and we bought some to bring home.
The produce in Lebanon was almost painfully beautiful and fresh.  In Doha, we get most of our produce from Lebanon, so I knew it was a bounteous place.  Still, I was awestruck by the sight of streetside vegetable shops and their impressive wares.  
Back in Beirut, I was taken to the "best falafel in town" (quotes included to acknowledge subjectivity of such a statement,) and my currently local friend Laurel and I walked the Corniche and watched monster waves breaking up and over the sea wall, on a monumentally stormy day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It was only for a day, but it was so good, for that little while, to have an unbroken view of the sea, and hear the shush-shush of tide flowing in.
And it has been entirely too long since our room for the night looked like this:
There was also knitting.
Then guess what happened next...
Then it was evening, and then morning.
So appropriate to have a scarf modeled after a sea creature to knit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The making of a weaver

This story has been in progress for a long time.  I've always known I wanted to weave.  But it took Golden Gate Fiber Insititute, Judith MacKenzie, and Laverne Waddington to make it all come together.
At GGFI in August, I took Judith's Color on Cloth class and dyed a warp, progressively tying resists and immersing in color.
Yes, that really was the first color.
Other lovely warps drying:
Compared to these, mine ended up looking rather dull, but I have to admit I was not giving it much focus.  I was concentrating on trying to finish the woven shibori piece that we had to warp, weave, and dye in record time. (Also trying to turn part of my hair indigo - thus the plastic-wrapped knob.)
When I got the warp home on its own, I decided it's not dull, per se, but subtle.
The woven shibori turned out okay, too.
I was actually very proud of myself for getting this done, to a decent scarf length.  It was an immersion in the deep end for a new weaver like me, but that was a great way to learn, and I deeply appreciated Judith's method and message of trust in simply getting me started and letting me do it.
Once home, I had to rig up a way to weave my warp.
I have no loom, and a longstanding interest in backstrap weaving, so the way was clear.
With the aid of Laverne's tutorials, I began to weave with a backstrap, practicing on a narrow cotton strip, then moving on to handspun wool.
Once I had this taste of backstrap weaving, I could not wait to start on my dyed warp.  It took some wrangling, since the warp yarns had gotten sticky with the dyeing, but I enjoyed this part, too.
This is the grey base yarn.  I also dyed 1/3 as many warp yarns over white, and when I prepared the warp for weaving, I integrated them as two stripes.
It was very slow-going at first.  With such a long warp, three times as wide as my previous one (this is about 12" wide,) I had a steep learning curve.  The cotton I'd used for a string heddle was sticking to the wool like crazy, so I eventually abandoned it for a new one made of plastic tape.  (The rejected heddle string will make an interesting addition to a yarn someday: pale blue cotton with felted rust-orange nubs every several inches!) Here is the plastic heddle, and some actual woven cloth, which was a thrill to see:
Making this cloth, and watching the colors interact as the weft joins it, has been a deeply satisfying trip.
This piece will be significant on so many levels, and I cherish every aspect of its formation, not least the people who have guided the way.
I think I'm more than halfway finished, adding a few inches each day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cross Country

This will be a quickie, since I'm falling behind with stuff I want to post....
We took a "driving ramble" trip with the Qatar Natural History Group last weekend.  Going directly across the country, from one side of the peninsula to the other, only takes about an hour on the highway.  Then we took off into the desert, in a big caravan - vrooom....

It was fun to get some experience driving on the sand: hard tack, soft sand, troughs and ruts and all. I was a passenger (and photographer) for the first half, then drove the second stretch.
Camels photgraphed while driving - do not try this at home.
They're relatively free-range, with herders gathering them together by night.
One woman spotted a camel skeleton, and we collected the various bleached bones.  That's the fun thing about the QNHG - everyone has their own specialty.  For some it's bones, for others it's fossils, or shells, or birds....
I thought this pelvic bone looked like a Star Wars helmet.  Or maybe the rabbit from Donnie Darko...?
The drive ended with a relaxing lunch at the beach. If you were able to see the land across the way (which we could, just barely,) you'd be looking at Saudi Arabia.
Bye till next time, camels...