Full moon of July
A Grandfather's story from the 4th of July.
Cecil Cameron Cunningham was born in 1921 and died at the age of 93 plumb full of stories from living a life that generation did: candles in the farmhouse to Facetime on an iPad. Tonight is 4th of July eve and every year when this holiday rolls around I spontaneously recall a particular story my grandfather told.
Cecil grew up on a farm in Lane, South Dakota - a place which mostly does not exist anymore. One summer when he was days away from his 10th birthday the family went to town after finishing the morning farm chores for the community 4th of July picnic. Food, games, dancing, and friendship between tough people who were all doing their best to just exist. For that afternoon you could forget the homestead and remember life.
An hour or two after they arrived a neighbor pulled in on his horse drawn wagon and commented to my great-grandfather: "Well you don't have to worry about your corn no more."
You see, this was the early days of the dust bowl and my grandfather's family farmed corn on their small farm. Shortly after the family piled into the wagon and left the farm a swarm of locusts descended and in minutes stripped the fields down to but a few stalks.
At this point in the story, my grandpa would chuckle deep in his belly and look way off into the distance and say in a subdued, reflective voice: "we certainly didn't <chuckle> have to worry about our corn anymore.<chuckle><chuckle>"
He would go on to talk about the dust storms and the dust that would fill the house even through the wet cloth they stuffed into every crack. The dust was so thick sometimes in the house you could not see to the other side of the room. He played in the dust and wandered a moonscape where before had been miles and miles of green.
The family lost their farm to the local general store for a debt of $300 in food and moved to town. My great grandfather died a couple of years later and my grandpa, the youngest of 10 kids, left to ride the rails after 8th grade finding work where work was found.
Cecil talked about working for a week and then being handed a bill for room and board and told to get out of town before the law was involved. He worked camps building dams for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He wandered, surviving as you do as an itinerant on the vast great plains of middle of North America. WWII took him to Africa and Europe. A family and millions of miles of travel as a truck driver saw him continue to wander his entire life.
These stories would run on for hours vividly filling my mind. It is strange to be an American with our convoluted, deeply confusing, and flawed history which binds the disparate diaspora together in this collective reality of a quilted state. All of these stories are equally fabulous - it's that umami which defines this experiment.
Every year on the 4th of July I think of this story.
The rhythm of now,
summer in Southern New Mexico
The summer desert is most alive in early morning. As the birds sing in gentile warmth we arise, enjoy a cup of home roasted coffee and make our way over to our new space to work on finishing stucco before the deliriously intense heat of the sun forces us into the shade. And in the heat of the afternoon we retreat to our studios, wet cloth around our shoulders, to paint and weave. Again in the evening we return to the brick-oven-of-a-building to chip away at projects until the coolness of night arrives. This is the rhythm.
These past few months have been in a rhythm of contruction-art-construction-sleep. It feels good to be getting closer with every hour spent towards the goal of being able to enter the sanctuary of creation with a mind on art, and not other things. Much of the building-work is inherently creative though too. We are both in the throws of perfecting the art of concrete work and stucco. With an eye on both beauty of line and a desire of long lasting function we prep walls and windows, mix and trowel. Its starting to both look and feel really good. Hopefully with the next giant thunderstorm gallons of water wont pour in through the cracks in the walls this time.
On shawls and current works
In my current world of weaving I've been fully engrossed with the pure beauty and functionality of the shawl. There are few, if any, garments that serve such beautiful function for such a simple form. It is the humble shawl that I first fell in love with while living in India. It is the shawl that made me want to weave, to create functional adornment to empower and accompany. For the remainder of the warp that I have on the loom I am hoping to create a few rebozos, or shawls, that will be for sale via random draw (and maybe one auction).
I just wanted to share this sweet anecdote about someone becoming a shawl-lover. At the end of last year I finally met the tattoo artist that could bring to life a piece that I had been dreaming of for about ten years. Corn, cloud, lightning and roots. Sustenance, energy and the deep ties of my family to the desert lands of the Southwestern. Jason's lines and energy in the work he creates felt like a perfect fit for the art I envisioned on my body. For this trade I wove him a shawl, a thing he had never had as a part of his life. Over the next few months I've received many photos and updates about his new found love for shawl-life. The best starting with the line "omg your scarf is fucking amazing" and went on to tell me about him being in NYC and found himself a 30 min walk from where he was staying with more groceries that he could carry, so he tied it up into a sling and carried them like a baby. I appreciate the updates from anyone about how they integrate and enjoy my creations into their lives. Included are a few photos of him and his shawl, as well as my tattoo in progress. You can find him @jasaintyuieor on insta.
Currently on my loom I am working on a naturally dyed raw silk shawl whose color and lines are the vibrations of summer heat and brilliant light. The heat of southern New Mexico summer is infused into its fibers. Please enjoy these glimpses of it. Though I am tempted to keep it for myself, I don't think I will.
We hope you are all enjoying the world out there. Summer is magical no matter where you are. Sending all our love,
Jeannie & Kyle