Gathering–Gathering Thoughts–Gathering Leaves

4 Oct

My freezer is full of leaves.  Last night I inventoried my stash–low on white oak but tons of sourwood from a downed tree of a friend.  Could stand more sweet gum, butterfly bush and sumac–but for now I’m just fine.  So far, these are my go-to leaves for printing.  Leaves that will probably do  something.  Or not.

A thought came to me this morning while I was gathering wet white oak–a memory.  A memory of years ago gathering red maple leaves with my mother.  During her last few years, when she was still able to get out, we would take a drive every Sunday.  And in the fall, there was nothing she wanted more than to drive up onto the mountains and either peer down into the New River Gorge or collect ruby-red foliage.  It was amazing watching her while she was still able to ambulate–bending over and picking up her treasures–and then when she became too tottery–she’d point with her canemom's cane–a cane I found in an old secondhand store–a strong stick probably from rhododendron–with a gnarled handle that fit perfectly into her hand (and my own).  I painted it up with an old container I had of interference purple, hot-glued shiny glass beads and stars all over it–stuck a skid proof stopper on its end–and presented it to her one year at Christmas.  She loved it.

But back to the leaf gathering.  When she was no longer able to stoop, she’d simply point with the cane, pin a leaf down and tell me in no uncertain terms that she wanted “that one.”  And “that one–and yes, that one, too.”  This could go on for a long time.  And I think of this now and wish that after the ten thousandth leaf, I had been more patient.  Because really, I was only patient for a while. The leaves were taken home–many of them ironed in between waxed paper and I’m wondering what happened to them.  Wondering why I didn’t keep them when we cleared out her house.   That’s what I remembered this morning gathering leaves.

So–back to now–Joaquin may be on the way out but it’s still gray, windy and wet.  Leaves are coming down like crazy and the poplars, sumac and sourwoods are yellowing and reddening up.  Seems kinda late to me–but this is new–this obsession with ecoprinting–so I can’t rely on memory to tell me what last year’s trees were doing.  Anyway, last year at this time I had sold my house and was getting ready to move.  So I don’t know.  But I do know this–I’ve never, ever seen seed pods sprouting “on the vine.”

c and m sprouting

I was letting the spent blossoms stay on the flowers as long as possible before harvesting them–but look–the marigold  seed bundle in the foreground is sprouting–and in the upper right hand corner?  Dyer’s coreopsis sprouting before it even hits the ground.  Seems strange.

And the palette is changing now with the season.  Blue from sourwood.  Yellow from sumac turning.  Brown from acer.  Some times I over-dye but this one will stay as is.  It’s beautiful when the light hits the silk.

closeup of sourwood

But now I am going to reprint this a.m.’s scarf.  Trusty sourwood pulled an “or not” and simply did not print.  Left only a ghostly ever so faint yellow. Kinda like memories.

15 Responses to “Gathering–Gathering Thoughts–Gathering Leaves”

  1. beth October 4, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks for your memory. Ah yes, patience in retrospect… What is it with this obsession? I gathered windfall oak leaves yesterday and there are some late blooming flowers in the garden that I have my eye on. I am still timid but reading a lot. I’ve had a few flops and am wary of using iron and copper even in the most passive ways. I saw you on one of the FB ecoprint groups and smiled. I’ve not yet posted anything there.


    • Patricia October 5, 2015 at 8:07 am #

      Would love to see some of what you call your “flops.” finding that sometimes a dip in indigo works wonders. i’ve soak a fine steel wool in vinegar and am using that as pre mordant.(copper i know nothing about) and i’m doing a lot of testing on scraps–seems to give me the assurance i’m looking for–although printing on muslin is nothing like printing on silk, as you know. so i have to do a mental translation–“if this looks like that, what will it look like there.”


  2. ravenandsparrow October 4, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    I totally understand your mother’s fascination. Once you start picking up autumn leaves it is impossible to stop. Each one is beautiful in a slightly different way. If only that beauty could be saved, but I guess its fleeting quality is part of what makes them so compelling. Your eco prints are a very good way of seeing and saving an aspect of their beauty that isn’t necessarily apparent even in their glory.

    Look at all the changes that have happened to you since last fall! Brava Patricia.


    • Patricia October 5, 2015 at 8:11 am #

      hi. yes, i meant to make that point in the post–that i do understand my mother’s fascination and ability to find sublime beauty in the offerings from the trees. and sometimes i ask them–“which one of you wants to leave an indelible impression on cloth?” and that leads me to thinking about what it is we leave behind…and really, i think it may be nothing like what we imagined. thanks for your comments.


  3. Marti October 4, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    Your Mom’s bejeweled cane looks like a magic wand and why not, she had the magic eye to gather nature’s jewels in the form of the many hued leaves that are given to us each season.

    Sourwood, a tree I had not heard of gives such beautiful blue prints Patricia, the scarf is exquisite. . I get blue here from desert willow if I shock it with calcium carbonate. Gathering leaves is part of a seasonal ritual, the nesting urge that comes when we need to have some of nature around us as we head into the cold, quiet time. With your scarves, you have that with you every time you adorn yourself with your beautiful dye work.


    • Patricia October 5, 2015 at 8:19 am #

      it was a magical instrument for her…and introduced a bit of playfulness around the movements of a woman who always had been so graceful and “coordinated.” she could laugh at herself–always a good think i think.

      sourwood–a beautiful tree–

      i read somewhere that the Cherokee used its small branches for arrow shafts due to the straightness–and here there is a sourwood festival in early summer that features “sourwood honey”–early blossoms are spectacular and once you see them, you’ll never look at the tree with the same eyes.

      and funny thing, Marti…i don’t wear these scarves myself–will hopefully be selling them as soon as i find an outlet. the trunk show we had here was helpful because i was able to gauge the public’s reaction to them. sold a few and got the feedback i was looking for. but that said, i do have a few old t’s that i’ve ecoprinted and they’re now my main go-to wear. sending love


  4. Nancy October 4, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    You’ve really gotten this printing thing going! The one you say you shall leave is just beautiful! I have a similar, but different memory with my mama. Just before her ending began, she said some things that bothered me. I let her know in a much louder way than I ever do. I remember at the time I felt like I was ‘finally’ standing up for myself. Very soon after that, she went into the hospital and from there it was rehab and hospice. She was gone with 6 weeks. I look back at that exchange and question why I had to respond that way? Why then did I have to stand my dumb ground? But then sometimes I think it is kind of like the whole teenage thing (I wrote to Cindy about)…maybe in some way I knew I needed to not only stand my ground, but stand on my own two feet. She would always be around. Time to separate even more, like our toddlers do, like our teens do…maybe like we do before our parents pass on. I don’t know, your memory reminded me of my own and here I am rambling. All to say, sometimes I feel there is a purpose to the way things happen that we don’t know at the time. Happy dyeing (cloth) to you 🙂


    • Patricia October 5, 2015 at 8:25 am #

      i’m finding that laying sourwood (blue) on top of sumac(sometimes yellow) yields an interesting green…at least with the last batch of leaves. 24 hours makes a huge difference in their chemistry so not sure what they might do today.
      thanks for sharing your own memories here. part of my process these days is simply giving myself a break…not remembering in terms of “should have” but rather simply “that is how it was, then.” maybe things would be the same if i had a re-do–but maybe not. anyway, i’m feeling clear that at any given point in time, i (we) simply do the best we can. and i’m tired of judging whether that was good enough. i think you probably understand what i’m trying to say. and as Cynthia says, gentle day to you.


  5. October 5, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    the story of your mother’s cane…a gift for all of Us
    Beauty is Everywhere


  6. Mo Crow October 5, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    what a magical cane wand!
    perhaps the cooler weather & change of season is affecting the colour ?


    • October 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

      this would have to enter into it, i alway am thinking….the stage at which
      the plant material is gathered…????
      Patricia????? if you aren’t already knowing this from your work
      so far, i am sure you will know it as you go…
      it’s very interesting to me…


      • Patricia October 5, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

        Mo and Grace–it ALL matters–weather, location on the tree–orientation to the sun–i think this is one thing i love about it–capturing one moment in the life of the leaf that will not happen again and cannot be replicated. does this make any sense? to me it seems profound. someone else might thing me nuts–because i actually almost audition the leaves–ask for their willingness to participate. and some i have to put back.


  7. user107055 October 6, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    my freezer is full of leaves…what a wonderful way to begin a post..and i can imagine both the fun..and the reasoning behind counting and categorizing leaves…i had such a nice first and last fall walk through the meadow and down into the woods the other the meadow is temporarily filled with cows..well alright ..only four cows..but they are large and ajax is territorial and so of while i will skirt edges and walk elsewhere…

    i love the cane that you made for your mother..since i spent part of this year using..a hiking stick..cleverly provided by nieces who knew how hard i was taken being dependent..and it actually was so well loved by the people at many people hate suddenly being that person…that external person who needs all kinds of help…but who is still quite whole and feeling not at all old or needy inside..

    i remember my mom going though this and how i promised myself..and probably anybody within hearing distance..that if i ever needed help ..i would ask..i would accept gracefully..and i really have tried to do that..but i am glad that i beribboned and decorated things for my mama..and i so applaud you for what you did for yours..oh sometimes perspective..besides being everything..really bites..

    we have the same sprouting on our marigolds..and i think i saw it here last year..vaguley ..everything was so new..but i think i thought it was because we were in vermont..guess not

    i love that your palette is changing with the is such a pleasure to read here..gentle day..cynthia


  8. deemallon October 6, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    the simple pleasures, is what I think. nicer than : obsessive behavior. I enjoyed the memory of your Mom and that cane… agree with others who see it as magical!


  9. ravenandsparrow March 17, 2016 at 12:46 am #

    Hi Patricia. How are things going?


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