Summer Begins before the Solstice

Farewell to Spring blooming at Rush Creek in Novato

After a wet cool spring, the hills are suddenly straw, yet every afternoon the fog reaches its arms over the coastal hills. Summer in California has more sense of ending than any other time of year. In the Land of Seven Month Springs, we discover that even grass is mortal.

The red salamander in this contemplative poem is a Red Eft, the land stage of the East Coast cousin of our newts.

LIVING

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander,
so cold and so easy
to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

.        –Denise Levertov

Some Farewell flowers have a brilliant red bloodspot at the base of each of their four petals

Our Surprise: Sylvia Pippen’s Exquisite Quilt!

An unexpected gift for Tina and myself manifested in yesterday’s mail, all the way from the coast south of Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island — one of Sylvia Pippen’s flower quilts, arriving unannounced and without any special occasion to justify it.

The three blossoms on this 1 1/2 by 2 foot quilt are Rocky Mountain columbine, a reminder of Sylvia’s more than four decades of deep friendship with us, and of the love all three us of share for the high mountains.

I’d bet my bottom dollar Sylvia was remembering as she stiched the very stand of columbine that rose instantly to mind from my own forty-year-old memory: Not far from the summit of Wheeler Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico is a hidden dell, its walls a wild tumble of talus boulders; each year in August, masses of white-and-blue columbine — hundreds upon hundreds of glorious blossoms — fountain from every crevice in this tiny place, their colors mirroring the cumulus-dotted alpine sky.

I marvel the quality and precision of Sylvia’s work. Everything you see is hand-stitched. The stamens of the flowers — each stamen separately — is embroidered with two or three colors, topped by bright yellow, pollen-heavy anthers. And look in the detail below at the quilting itself.

Sylvia and her near-ninety-year-old mother, Kitty (who still quilts and teaches), are among the Olympians of North American quilt-making. You can see more of their master craft at http://sylviapippendesigns.com/

And you can find their books at Amazon:

Paradise Stitched: Sashiko & Applique Quilts. Sylvia Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Paradise-Stitched-Sashiko-Applique-Quilts-Sylvia/dp/1571206175/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-1

Asian Elegance: Quilting with Japanese Fabrics and More.  Kitty & Sylvia Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Asian-Elegance-Quilting-Japanese-Patchwork/dp/156477483X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-3

Quilting with Japanese Fabrics. Kitty Pippen  http://www.amazon.com/Quilting-Japanese-Fabrics-Kitty-Pippen/dp/1564772977/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275609171&sr=1-2

We’re on our way to the hardware store right now to get a dowel and wooden brackets to give this marvel its place of honor on our living room wall.