One of our neighbors has this SPECTACULAR patch of Coprinoid fungus. I think it’s Coprinopsis variegata, but I’m not expert enough to be certain. It’s a massive colony that is digesting a long-dead felled tree; you can see the outline of part of the stump.
And Dan Brewer’s post about magnolias and how they evolved such robust flowers to be pollinated by beetles BECAUSE BEES HADN’T EVOLVED YET, reminded me –
White-rot fungi, which is basically all of the saprophytic fungus types – some of which make weird tiny fruiting bodies that are hard to even recognize AS fruiting bodies, and create webs of filmy white stuff (mycelium) in your compost heap, or dry-rot the boards in your garage… but also comprise ALL of the stem-and-cap classic mushrooms we know – evolved after hundreds of millions of years of life had already passed. The ENTIRE REASON we have coal, oil, and gas, is that the Carboniferous period, 359.2 MYA to about 299 MYA had NO MUSHROOMS. Nothing fungal rotted those plants; they piled up where they fell. And that’s coal. I heard a scientist on NPR talking about how coal mining companies won’t let them investigate for fossils in most coal mines, because you can often see how it’s just PILED UP DEAD PLANTS with animals stuck in – and it makes it way too clear how limited and special those deposits are. When a shallow inland sea covered up an area and tons of gravity squeezed the juicy bits out of all the dead material, that’s oil. Volatile fractions separate from the squeezed hydrocarbon juices, and float to the top, and that’s natural gas. And it can NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, because now when a tree falls, there are hundreds of kinds of airborne spores that fall on it and break it down into tiny bits of organic matter which are then taken up by insects, plants, mites, other fungi, etc. I got the deets on this from “Entangled Life” by Merlin Sheldrake.
And every time I see someone being stressed out or concerned about having “fungus in their soil” – it happens a lot on gardening forums when people are new and don’t know – it makes me so sad, and I have to tell them this kind of stuff. Because fungus makes EVERYTHING happen in the soil, and without their fungal partners, plants are crippled and can’t thrive. Plants and fungus literally hold hands on a cellular level, and in many cases they require one another to survive.
So be careful with mushrooms, yeah – don’t eat what you aren’t really sure about – but also look and realize how awesome they are. And another thing: there is not a mushroom with a poison you can be harmed by from touching the mushroom. You can pick up any mushroom, put it down, wash your hands, and you’re fine. You can actually TAKE A BITE, chew, and spit – and you won’t have any damage. You have to ingest and digest the toxins to be harmed. Many of the really dangerous ones, in the hardcore books, still have TASTING NOTES to help identify them. It’s crazy to see something with a skull and crossbones, and things like “Slightly peppery, with a fruity undertone similar to apricot.” And I learned this from Alan Rockefeller, who is a god among mushroom men, and I’ve been privileged to walk in the woods with him.
I have been working on my brain. Years of therapy, meditation, lucid dreaming, vision work; I’ve been an explorer for most of my life… but recently, I’ve taken a deep dive into a different kind of therapy that I’m going to call non-plant-based-medicine, because the organisms aren’t plants, and the folks who know, will know, and if you don’t know but you’re really curious, please talk to me privately after class. It’s an adventure in non-ordinary consciousness, and the results have been PHENOMENAL. The changes are seismic, and they have radically altered the way I’m interacting with the world. If you see me, and you think, “What got into HIM?” feel free to ask. Later on, I’ll probably be a little more frank about it, but for the moment, I’ve got to be just a bit circumspect.
This morning, I had a surprising realization. These little satoris, these moments of sudden awareness, have been rising to the surface and bursting like bubbles in fizzy water; they keep catching me by surprise, and I am living in a constant state of wonder and delight.
I have had a slight psychological stammer for the past couple of decades. It hasn’t been terribly noticeable; it shows up when I’m nervous mostly, but it’s been a constant companion. Things like strings of complicated words are difficult for me to get out, and particularly difficult to get out QUICKLY. My mouth would fight with my brain, and I would often end up either making some nonsense sound, or just shutting up. I made myself smaller, I backed away, I hushed myself. I know where it came from, and I’ve talked with my therapists about it, and I’ve worked on it… but it’s been a Thing. It has diminished my shine.
This morning, driving to work, I was singing along with Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble.” I love the rhythms, but the fast parts I’ve always just kind of skimmed over, making a tatta-ta-tatta, tapping the steering wheel along with the beat, or kind of murmured, hitting the highlights. Boy… bubb… baby… This time, I was singing, full-voice, and when I found myself rollicking right over “Think of the boy in the bubble and the baby with the babbling heart” – I realized that it was GONE. Just GONE. Totally not there. It had dissolved. My tongue and teeth spat out every single consonant, clear and crisp and clean. I literally burst out with peals of surprised laughter, and then I cried. Emotional lability has been a part of this process, and I’ll be kind of glad when it settles down JUST a little bit, but I’ll miss it, too – it’s wonderful to be so taken by surprise by joy that you well up in sudden happy tears.
I have realized, over the past month or so, that my speech patterns have shifted. More so even in the past two weeks. Friends and colleagues have remarked on it. I’ve always had a good, polished, careful speaking voice; now, it has a swiftness and a power that is very different, and I find myself having to rein it in, to watch how loudly I’m speaking, because otherwise I’m projecting to the balconies despite being in a little room. It’s a beautiful thing. My tongue has been speaking a constant river of wonderment, trying to explain the marvel of the natural world that confronts me on a moment-to-moment basis. My husband will tell you that it’s more than a little exhausting; one afternoon recently, he literally dialed my phone and put it in my hand so that I could talk to someone else, because his ears were TIRED. I’ve always been a handful; now, you’ll need to bring a basket. Bring a cart.
And while I’m in the racked-with-sobs mode… another thing I have to call back to every once in a while, is this Dar Williams song.
The first time I heard it, on NPR, in Houston, driving in my car, I had to pull over and cry. Like, big racking sobs, sitting in my car, on the side of some street. I don’t even remember where I was in town. I just remember being cut open and touched in a place that was pure and beautiful and painful.
Because I’m the guy in that song. That’s me. And I’m happy that I’m still able to pick flowers everywhere that I walk, and I’m getting back to a place, with therapy and a lot of meditation and some medication, where I can cry. I should talk to my mom more. But the world doesn’t want to let us be that guy, and it hurts.
I went to see her, live, on tour in Dallas, playing an acoustic gig for a few dozen people in a tiny coffee house in a church basement. I walked up, all alone among strangers, and I thanked her, but there’s no way to really explain what she’d meant to me, the light she had been in my dark times, without breaking down in a big ugly cry, and I’m sure she gets that from time to time, but it’s not really helpful. Thank you, Dar.
00MichaelMichael2023-04-15 13:40:342023-04-15 13:40:37Show me on the Doll Where The Song Hurt You
There’s a house in the cul-de-sac that I call the Witch House. It’s been essentially abandoned since we moved in here 14 years ago this May (gosh, time flies) – and I’m deeply sorry that I never got to meet the woman that I still think of as the witch. She may or may not have been some kind of actual earth-religion person, but the whole place has that earth-mother organic-garden feel – the house is shingled on the facings, overgrown with ivy, crowded in on all sides by trees; massive vines of small-flowered climbing roses clamber up the side of the garage, smelling faintly of cinnamon and cloves, there are Gulf Coast Penstemons scattered haphazardly through the yard, and a blend of old fashioned favorites like real hyacinths and muscari and irises harmoniously commingle with natives like side-oats gramma and woodland Passiflora lutea under the spreading bronze plums with their so-sour fruit. So far as I know, she’s still alive, but had to leave here and move for health reasons. A landscape crew comes usually twice a year, whacks things back and cleans up the bamboo.
But every spring, this tree peony blooms. You can see it beside the door there; you have to know what it is to even realize it’s blooming. It literally makes me weep; I’m sitting here wracked with tears, trying to explain this. It’s so beautiful, and so far removed from normal “Dallas” landscape plantings… it’s the only one I’ve ever seen in a yard in this whole CITY, in bloom. And every year, I go, and I walk barefoot in her garden, and I fucking BEAR WITNESS, and I take pictures. Because whatever variety this is, it’s an eloquent tone poem in shades of pink and rose and coral, and the beauty of it cuts me like a knife. Maybe one of these days I’ll work up the nerve to render it in silks; they’re a favorite subject for embroidery because of the subtle shades.
And some years there are two flowers or three, but often only one, and sometimes if the weather was bad, I miss its full bloom. But I want you all to see it, and I want to pay respect to this beautiful garden despite its lying in ruin. I’m pretty sure raccoons have inhabited the attic; this will be a house that will be difficult for someone to refresh, it will likely be torn down when and if it sells.
I’ve never had the nerve to take so much as a cutting from this garden, because that’s how you end up in a fairy tale. I’ve tasted a few of the ornamental plums, despite, or perhaps because of, the possibility of being carried off by the elves. They were sour, and gave me no nightmares. But if this house goes on the market and I see a SOLD sign on it, I will go in the night, and I will rescue this princess with a shovel, because if they tear the house down, she will never survive.
And wherever you may be, lady who built this garden with love and care and unusual and rare plants mixed with native and wild things – I see you, and I honor you, and thank you for the beauty and the tears.
00MichaelMichael2023-04-15 13:19:542023-04-15 13:28:59The Witch House
This here, is going to be some fucked-up political dance party. It’s going to be interesting to see how the shit hits the proverbial fan on this one.
So. Retailers in the State of Texas have been selling “hemp extract” products containing Δ-8THC… under the belief that it was made legal a few years back along with CBD oils and other related products because of the low quantity of the Δ-9 “official” cannaboninoinoid (that’s not a word to try typing while… um, drowsy). HOWEVER – the Perpetually Embarrasing State of Texas has now declared that Δ-8 is a Schedule 1 drug. You know, like heroin and cocaine, a life-ruining menace with NO possible redeeming medical uses. And because of the way Texas thinks… it was ALWAYS a Schedule 1 drug ACCORDING TO TEXAS. Nowhere else in the US, apparently, but Texas makes its own rules.
[[Rest of America: we’re sorry. SO sorry. Your sane and sensible friends who happen to live in Texas did not vote for our idiot governor, or the whole fucking circus full of monkeys we call a state government, any more than we did for our idiot former president. Please, bear with us. We are trying.]]
So, now shops, many of which have sprung up specifically around CBD and Δ-8 products, are scrambling, trying to figure out if they’re busy committing ongoing drug felonies due to products they have been selling with the full and reasonable belief they were LEGAL… or if they have already committed felony after felony [because Texas bureaureaucrats (damn, there’s another one of those words…) wouldn’t know clear policymaking if it tongued them in the ass]. There’s a huge difference between having a bottle of Δ-8 in the kitchen cabinet, and being a small shop owner who has purchased cases and cases of it, with receipts and all that legally-documented stuff… that’s “Possession with Intent to Distribute” level, if not “Conspiracy to Sell Narcotics” or whatever they want to tack on. I’m sure they could tie it in to RICO. It would theoretically mean huge numbers of Texan citizens going to PMITA prison, but probably not the pretty blond ones, or the straight white men. Bless them, the poor misguided things. They were led astray by these damned dirty counter-culture ANTIFAS.
It says something about how anal-paranoid about my writing I am, that I have to go back and edit the outer pair of those parentheseeses (motherfucker, these terms! I have trouble sometimes STOPPING spelling certain words, especially when I’ve enjoyed some [FREAKING LEGAL YOU IDIOTS] relaxing herbal medication) to be brackets. (Did you follow that?) I don’t remember whether it’s square outside and round inside, or the other way around, and I’m juuuust too, um, relaxed to care enough to go digging. Even with the strictly-pared-down “nobody I’m biologically related to, employed by, or neighbors with, plus anybody I don’t want to know I use the word “fuck,” especially when in conjunction with “ed up” ” [Y’all will just have to imagine the single and double quote marks. Sorry, still “relaxed”] filter I’ve got on this, I’m certain there is someone on my friends list who will be more than happy to guide my feet to the paths of righteousness by quoting the AP Style Manual. 😉 And I’m pretty fucking proud of myself that the whole preceding paragraph, despite the poly-parenthetical asides, is relatively grammatically correct. And I’m leaving some of the spelling choices for humorous effect, despite the fact that the little crinkled red lines of spelling judgment are telling me “Your not supposed to leave deliberate errors in a document, no matter how informal,” and I whisper back “YOU’RE” and the little crinkled red fuckers say “D’oH!! and cringe in pain.
And speaking of paranoid… This whole post-long-ass-day, late-night rant is brought to you by my musings about paranoia as a listed side-effect of marijuana consumption. “Hmm…” I thought to myself, “Self, I wonder… did paranoia become a listed side-effect at a time when being high was, say, demonized in society, or illegal… and would being “paranoid” about being high BE actual paranoia if they really ARE out to get you… isn’t it something more like “justified concern?” Or “reasonable fear”? (now, I’m just mixing typographic and manuscript conventions in punctuation just to fuck with y’all…)
So, I sat down at my computer, and thought about googling to see if I could track the changing social attitudes toward marijuana, and correlate their timeline with the research on the side effects and the legal status in various parts of the world… and thought, “Damn, I’m stoned enough to think that, but a little TOO stoned to do the data work,” and then I thought, “DAMN, this LEGAL IN FIFTY STATES Δ-8 shit will still FUCK YOU RIGHT UP,” and so I just decided, because, you know, paranoia [REAL? Or imagined? You decide!] I typed in “Is Delta-8 legal in Texas?”
Which yielded this article.
Updated THIRTEEN HOURS AGO.
Um…. paranoioid much?
HOWEVER, because finding things ridiculously humorourous is another listed side effect, I decided I’d share this with you. And hopefully, I won’t end up in (a) Facebook Jail for saying a rude thing, or (b) some black-ops site for speaking out against The Texas, or (c) PMITA prison, where I totally don’t think I’d enjoy the PMITA nearly as much as usual, for having a bottle of CBD-D8 oil in my kitchen cabinet.
We’ve had a big winter storm here in Dallas. I got an email from a friend in Hawaii asking how we’re doing, and found myself typing up a long newsy letter – so I’m pasting it here so everyone can know how we’re doing, and I can have the memory tucked into my blog timeline.
We have been snowed in, and power has been off and on. Over the course of two nights of snow, we got about six inches of accumulation. The first batch came down as pure powder; it was like walking on cornstarch. The second round, after some sunshine had melted the first batch, was a little more wet and formed an icy crust that crunches underfoot. We’ve had significantly colder temperatures than I’ve ever experienced living in Texas; we were down to -1’F overnight one of the nights, and many hours in the single digits and teens. Texas has been racked by power problems, mostly tied to poor winterization and high demand, so power has been up and down. They were supposed to be doing “rolling blackouts” where everybody got 45 minutes of power and then 15 minutes without. This did not happen. We were getting mostly 4 to 8 hours without power, and then a couple of hours of power being on, and then it would go off again. It hasn’t gone off again since yesterday afternoon, so hopefully we’re done for now. We’re not planning to reset all the clocks on appliances and such until it’s sunny and warm, though.
We’re both fairly resourceful, so being snowed in and without power hasn’t been a big problem. It’s mostly a matter of staying bundled up and figuring out how to keep one room in the house warm with the intermittent power, and trying to keep things from freezing. Our heater is gas, but requires electricity for the fan portion, and won’t heat up anything without the fan running. Our hot water heater has been working hard the whole time, and hot water has been a boon. We just (like 2 weeks ago) got a brand new stove, and it’s gas – but apparently this line of double-fronted oven ranges from Whirlpool has a cut-off solenoid for the gas that makes it not run without electricity. The old one which we just replaced, you could light a burner with a match if the power was off, but you couldn’t light the oven; this one, the whole appliance shuts down. The old oven was failing, but I think we might have chosen to repair it rather than replace it, or picked a different brand of new stove, if we’d known. Ironically, we had to move food out of the freezer and refrigerator because with the power out, they weren’t keeping enough cold in the intermittently-heated house. The kitchen got down to 48’F, but mostly we were able to keep it in the low fifties. However, the garage was below thirty, so we were able to put frozen food in tubs and just sit them on the floor, and put refrigerated perishables in coolers so they wouldn’t freeze. We’ll probably move them back this afternoon since the power cycles seem to be over. Upside: this is a good chance to scrub all the refrigerator shelves and drawers.
Our street is aptly named Deep Hill Circle, and it’s literally uphill, both ways, to get to a main street. They finally sanded the lower of the two hills yesterday morning, so I may try to venture out to check on my office building this afternoon. It’s 27’F here now, but sunny off and on, which is helping to melt the snow and ice. We will probably have some patches of snow in the shaded areas for a few more days, just because it takes time to melt off. It’s forecast to be significantly warmer after the weekend, and we’ll probably be sun-tanning in the backyard by next Wednesday, when we’re supposed to have temps in the mid seventies. We got dressed warm and hiked over to the grocery day before yesterday, mostly for something to do – they were open but running on emergency generators, and had 1 out of 10 lights running, and the registers. It was dark and kind of creepy, but cool. We got the things we needed, packed up our backpacks, and hiked home.
I am expecting to lose a lot of plants. The potted plants like citrus and other tropical things get brought into the garage for dormancy over the winter – they are used to getting cold, but usually don’t actually get frozen. The garage has been 25’F even with efforts to keep it warmer. The supply lines for the clothes washer run in the garage wall, and they are frozen; it’s the only place we’ve got frozen pipes aside from the outdoor spigots, which are heavily mulched and should be OK after they thaw. We were down to -1 degree F, and a lot of the plants in the garden, despite being relatively hardy and established, just aren’t rated for that much cold. I’m hoping the fig tree, bay tree, pomegranate all survive, and I’m expecting to lose most if not all of my passionflower collection. Dallas hasn’t seen cold this bad since the eighties. I have friends who have hardy citrus varieties planted in the ground in their gardens; I’m betting they will die, as well as a lot of landscape palms and other semi-hardy plants. We have an outdoor cat in addition to the indoor cat and three dogs; we trapped the outdoor cat in the garage attic, and have been feeding her there and changing out her water twice a day as it freezes. It’s not warm, but I think she is nesting up in the area above the water heater’s closet, which stays warmer than the rest. I feel bad for the wild animals; this is hard on them as well. We normally see a parade of opossums, raccoons, and neighborhood feral cats at our front-door feeding bowl for the outside cat, but I bet they are mostly snug in their nests. We’ve been feeding huge flocks of birds with sunflower seed on the patio table and on top of the snow, and they have been constantly busy. We’ve had the usual cardinals, chickadees, titmice, doves, and woodpeckers, but also flocks of juncos and some new-to-me ones like a pine siskin and a yellow-rumped warbler. We’re going through a two-quart scoop of seed twice a day or so. We had been having such an unseasonably warm season that the robins had migrated early, and the waxwings have too, and now they’re scavenging for berries all over, flying from bush to bush.
There’s a lot of frustration with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Texas Railroad Commission. They got a big fine a few years ago for failing to properly winterize the power systems, but the fine was less expensive than the cost to winterize, so they just paid it and did nothing. Most of the power issues have been tied to frozen gas lines which could have been easily prevented with appropriate care. The Governor went on Fox News lying about how things were going and claiming it was related to windmills and showed how horrible the “Green New Deal” would be for Texas. I’m hoping the groundswell of public feeling about this will lead to some improvements in the system, and possibly some change-ups in our money-hoarding Republican state government. A big chunk of money that was allocated to winter precautions after Dallas had a spectacularly iced-out Superbowl a few years ago was instead diverted to the Governor’s “Rainy Day Fund” where it has just sat waiting for them to figure out how to give it away to petrochemical companies in subsidies or something.
On the good side – we’ve had lots of real quiet. With a minor freeway about a mile from us, and a small executive airport just a few blocks away, we’ve always had a lot of atmospheric sounds. With both of those closed due to ice and snow, you could hear every rustle in the bushes and every bird’s call. We’ve gotten some quality cuddle time with the dogs, and we’ve learned to layer up well to deal resiliently with the off-and-on power. We’ve had a little break from our usual daily concerns (can’t work from home with no electricity!) and we’ve gotten plenty of rest. And walking the dogs around the block, crunching footsteps in the snow, has been contemplative and beautiful. Our house has a steep-pitched roof, and looks lovely in the snow.
00MichaelMichael2021-02-18 10:31:242021-02-18 10:31:27"It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives"
When F&W Corporation bought the publishing properties that Interweave Press had worked to put together over many years – SpinOff, Handwoven, and others – many of us were justifiably dubious. F&W limped along for a while, and then declared bankruptcy, stiffing many writers on book royalties.
When I heard that Long Thread Media had been formed by some of the original creative minds at Interweave – Linda Ligon, Ann Merrow, John Bolton – I was glad that they revived the key periodicals which have been such a resource for the textile community for decades.
Linda Ligon got in touch, and asked me to write a long article about different species of silk. I put together a dossier on each of six species: Bombyx, Tussah, Eri, Tasar, Tensan, and Muga. I shipped them some of my exotic cocoons, and they did a spectacular job of photographing them in simple, elegant settings. I’m not sure whether the resulting The Long Thread is a magazine (like, will there be more issues?) or if it’s a book – but it’s awesome.
I’m in excellent company. Sara Lamb and Sarah Swett are textile artists whose work I already admire, and I’m looking forward to learning more about all the others.
00MichaelMichael2020-09-04 14:52:572020-09-04 14:52:59Published in The Long Thread!
So, a few years ago, I made a serious go at learning about bees. I studied them, I went on “smoke test” visits with bee-keepers. Chris got me hives for Christmas, and I tried… but I did not succeed, repeatedly, with bee-keeping. However, it’s given me an entirely different view on bees, and I love watching them going about their bee-siness in the garden, pollinating and nectaring and even gathering tree sap for propolis.
I learned that when nectar flow is scarce, particularly in our climate in late fall and early spring, bees are hungry. They will end up in your soda can, or trying to eat the jam out of your sandwich. When Chris found a couple of bees on dinner plates in the sink (we live with the house all open in early spring, until the mosquitoes get bad) we knew it was Bee Feeding Time. They’re warm enough to go out and forage, but not much is blooming for them to eat.
We mix 1:1 sugar syrup (one cup plain granulated sugar, one cup water) and put it in a tub. We put green weeds in there, so that if they get INTO the syrup, they can climb out. And the back yard becomes alive with little buzzing golden bodies.
Foraging bees are totally non-aggressive. The only way to get stung by one, is to accidentally crush her – they won’t fight or even argue, when they’re out hunting for nectar.
I didn’t take a video of how you FINISH feeding the bees… it’s kind of a gentle flick of the hand, dislodging the bees, and they fly away. They don’t chase you. I did have to brush a couple of bees off my pants legs, but they were just resting there.
It is surprising to me, how SPECIFIC their nectar-locating behavior is. There are scout bees, and they wander all over looking for nectar, and then there are foraging bees, who follow the very detailed directions from the scout bees and go direct to the source and then bee-line (yes, that’s where it comes from – they fly in a straight line) back to the hive. Zip, zip, zip. If you move your hand, or the tub of syrup, a foot… it’s not going to get any new bees until a scout bee relays the news back at the hive. They will land in the wrong spot for several minutes, stumbling around until they find the nectar, or going back hungry.
Amusingly, once the scout bees hear that there’s a big, pink-skinned nectar source, they stop and lick you, even when there’s no sugar. Like, just say for instance, you decide to lay out in the sun and get some Vitamin D when you’re done feeding the bees… you will get bee-licked.
For any of y’all who don’t know, I work as the Assistant Director for a nonprofit, non-governmentally run performing arts center. We’re a private 501(c)(3) corporation, for my nonprofit geeks.
Basically, everything we do, is large gatherings of people – people come here to experience the arts, to sing or dance, to watch a band play, to meet and talk about art, to plan art events, to advocate for the place of art in society, and to raise funds for the arts. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s a good life. The people are the best people – creative, open-hearted, passion-driven, and genuine. Of course, with the current concerns about Covid-19, we are having to cancel a LOT of things – rehearsals, performances, recitals, dances. If we don’t stay alive and healthy, we can’t keep singing and dancing and making art; being healthy and keeping our (often mature and occasionally at-risk) audiences healthy is key to what we do. But it means slashing all the bookings that make up a big part of our revenue stream. We are diversely funded by a variety of grants, donations, and personal gifts, but a major chunk of our budget revenues are earned income from the activities we host. And, because the arts community is made up of awesome people, they are being understanding and agreeing to work together, accepting the changes to schedules with good grace and equanimity. Our patrons, who are not getting to see shows they paid for and were looking forward to, have for the most part been gracious and kind.
I’m also on the board for a national fiber arts event. In that group, we’re in a situation faced by many small nonprofits – we have enough money to keep our events going, but we don’t have a bankroll that will allow us to basically eat an entire year’s worth of expenses. When we announced that we had to cancel our upcoming event, we got some amazing responses – one vendor even told us that it would be OK if we weren’t able to refund her vendor booth fee, and offered to donate sales of a special yarn to our event. We’re facing a mix, with some companies and attendees being angry and frustrated and demanding immediate refunds, and others being willing to work with us, helping out if possible.
What I want for
y’all to think about, is if you’ve got tickets to a show, or you’ve made a
reservation for an event, and that event has made the brutally painful choice
to cancel – that organization is hitting a wall, hard. Many of the smaller
groups may not be able to survive a catastrophe like this; even many of the
bigger ones will take a serious hit, and next year’s event may be under-funded
or smaller than before because of it. If you have an income situation where you’re
able to let a part of your refund be a donation instead, or if you’re able to
make a gift to the nonprofit of whatever amount, it can make a huge difference
in whether they can go on, pay their staff, present the show in the fall, have
the event next year.
The nonprofit that I work for as my “day job” is a medium-sized, long-term stable corporation. We’re in good health, as these things are measured; we’ve got money in the bank, we’re endowed with gifts from people who love and support what we do, and we’ve got a strong and flexible professional staff. The nonprofit that I am involved with as my “passion job” on the side, is a healthy and dynamic organization, but it’s entirely volunteer-run. A board of ten people plus six advisors organize, schedule, and run this huge event that serves hundreds of students and thousands of visitors over the course of a four-day super-weekend. We have many volunteers at event time, and there is a lot of help – but it’s in the hands of those few people. We have funds in the bank, a little, but not enough to swallow a whole event’s worth of expenses and survive. As a nonprofit board member (did y’all know this?) I bear a personal financial responsibility for the organization – if it goes under, particularly if a big corporation chooses to be inflexible with the money we contractually owe it for an event we can’t have, they can name me in the suit (see also: turnip, comma, blood from…). They can go after every one of us. If they can get a judge to approve it, they could put a lien on my house, or garnish my wages.
So if you can’t go to an event, please think a moment before you give a nonprofit VOLUNTEER person a nasty tongue-lashing about how you believe they should have handled things differently. Pause, and ask yourself if you want the event to happen next year – if you want the organization to live. If you can’t get a full refund, because the dance troupe or the orchestra just doesn’t have the funds to refund everyone’s money (advance ticket sales are often used for things like space rentals for rehearsals, paying set designers, building costumes, paying technical help), can you afford to forgive that debt, make it a donation to the event? Canceling an event last minute is complicated and horrible – with the fiber festival, we’ve already designed brochures, laid out our vendor hall, ordered name badges. People did their class homework, bought plane tickets, picked out their favorite things to wear and show off. Everyone – including every member of our volunteer board – was looking forward to seeing people we see only once a year. We’re devastated and literally crying through our days some times, and we are doing our best to make it as close to right as we can, for everyone.
00MichaelMichael2020-03-13 22:21:132020-03-15 11:33:13Hitting the wall, hard.
I’m taking an art class. Wednesday’s session involved studying a photo of a Jeff Koons sculpture, and working to capture its various shades of white and gray with black and white paint. After class, we had lined up our pictures and were talking about how the class had gone, how we felt about the materials, etc. Our instructor Jay Bailey said something that really struck me — that drawing is a reactive craft. You look at the subject, and you make a mark, and then you compare the mark to the model and see if it’s right, if you need to adjust, if you need to move it, or darken it, or what.
After thinking about it a little while, I realized that it’s precisely the passage of the attention back and forth between the mark and the model, comparing and adjusting, that makes drawing so soothing and engaging for me. It’s like a mantra, or a hypnotist’s pendulum – repeating that swinging of my focus, back and forth, back… and…. forth… and it puts me into a special, non-verbal but highly creative headspace. It’s what Betty Edwards calls “R-mode” – when you present the brain with a task that the analytical and linguistic “Left Brain” with a task that simply can’t be handled with the tools it has, it shuts down and relinquishes control to the creative, spatial, visual “Right Brain” side.