Sunday, January 29, 2012


On the way back to L.A. from Palm Springs a few weeks ago I stopped in at the West Covina Ikea and bought myself a $39.99 Helmer drawer unit on casters.

This might not seem like an event to you but about...oh, twelve years ago, I ventured into the Ikea in Burbank and was so brutally, cruelly traumatized by the experience that even now I quail at the memory. Ever since I have told myself I am just not the kind of person who can hack going to Ikea, I am not the kind of person who can deal with crowds, I am not the kind of person who likes airplane-hangar sized stores, I am not the kind of person who is able to stand in line, and though I probably could be the kind of person who put together a drawer unit, just in case I'm not, I really don't want to find out.

The next weekend, I got out my Phillips screwdriver, spread the parts out on the floor, and spent an absorbing couple of hours putting the thing together. I did run into a small snafu when I found that five drawers fit and what was left were two huge gaps on the bottom and top, one the height of a third of a drawer and the other the height of two-thirds of a drawer. But I did not qualify for the Winnacunnet High School Mathletes for nothing (qualified, but did not join, preferring field hockey). I quickly saw I'd installed the runners upside down, righted the situation, and now I have all the stuff that was in bowls and baskets and bins cluttering my desk in my  red Helmer cabinet!

Funny how a little thing like re-arranging your desk can open up whole new vistas.

The next day I drove over to the Autry Museum and was mesmerized by the Native American blankets and basketry.

sorry, I forgot my camera and had to use my phone...
ELIZABETH HICKOX (Karuk/Wiyot), c. 1913
this is a hat!

Wuzzie George, a Northern Paiute who wove especially beautiful baskets, lived near the Carson Desert outside Reno, Nevada.


Basketmaking is a whole way of life, taking into account native plants, geography, geology and weather, the changing of the seasons, and the surrounding wildlife. The preparation alone--gathering, splitting, drying, bundling--can take weeks. Controlled burns were sometimes used to encourage the growth of a particular crop of grasses or reeds. The designs were incredibly sophisticated and it is hard to imagine the focus required to bring one of these works of art (many of which they used in their daily routine) to life.

The craft of basketweaving is still alive and well. A woman in one of the videos reported that the Native Americans ask the plants--the reeds, and sumacs, and juncus and redbuds--permission to pick them. And they say thank you afterwards...


  1. As I read you, Heather, I am acutely aware of the narrowness of my own interests when juxtaposed with the capaciousness, the breadth, the wideness and openness of your many endeavors! Knitting! Native American art! And those photographs that speak to us of spring! (The coolest people knit. Bishop Sheen tells of seeing, on the New York subway in the 1960s, "a giant Negro man" knitting a sweater for his son and carrying a copy of the poems of St John of the Cross.)

    Your blog is a cornucopia, a cyberspatial horn of abundance and plenty, that nourishes this reader before dawn on the penultimate day of January -- and not only now, but always ....

  2. Knitting can be very meditative and spiritual. Knitters are a group of women and men who love the art and community that forms around knitting (such as the quilting bee). A place to be helped with your knitting, accepted and make you feel very welcome is called Ravelry. You can join for free at My user name there is sisterdi.


  3. Oh, yes, Heather. I mean about the movement, the dancing. And the yoga! I loved dancing as a child, but lacked the self-discipline as an adult. At 39 I became crazily interested in ballet, and took lessons, and was approved by a teacher to teach (little children) and now I do.I find in ballet the perfect balance of self-discipline and creativity - one absolutely needs both.

    But there are so many forms of dance, and I know an 80-yr old woman who dances in a very free-spirited way with a group, weekly, with chiffon scarves and all - how it frees her soul, I can just see. You're so disciplined, it seems, perhaps you would love something really way-out and unstructured.

    Circle dancing is wonderful too - its kind of Celtic in nature, done in a group, speaks to that right-brained, community-loving side of us. Do feed that side a little Heather, the right-brained side ... I know you do, through poetry and art and music ... but dance is - well, I just so recommend it. Its physical, it involves our whole self, its responsive, and it enables expression in a totally different way.
    And I'm not even any good at it. I just know its wonderfully good for us.
    Don't mean to rave - God has different ways for each of us - but our bodies do need care and gentleness and attention ... I'd probably fit right in with that LA crowd..! Oh dear.

  4. I have 2 Helmer Draw Units. Not that I'm competitive, or nothin...

  5. I sit in awe of your Ikea survival story, Heather. I tried to conquer Ikea here in North Texas last year and the final score was Ikea 1, Kevin 0.

  6. So now that you have a real file cabinet will you be able to locate the attribution on that St Francis quote of several months ago? "I've been unwell since the day of my conversion" or something to that effect?

    The logical step after putting a file cabinet together is to actually file stuff in it. Not to rain on your parade, but this requires a commitment on an order of magnitude far greater than ... well you get the idea.

    Just trying to help.

  7. Hunh, EJF? You have time to sit around questioning other people's commitment? You should start a blog.

    It's not a filing cabinet; it's a "drawer unit."

    And fyi, many people use a little tool called "google" nowadays in order to ascertain the derivation of a quote.

  8. Okay. I can recognize a cry for help as well as the next guy. You have never actually had a filing system of your own (although I recall something in one of your books about the title bureau and a law office). Not to worry. I'm here for you.

    I recommend the vertical method, with items placed from bottom to top in the order in which they come to your attention. This is far more expedient than the traditional horizontal, individual file for a particular topic method. When the content of your file cabinet -- sorry, drawer unit -- becomes snug vary the entry angle of your deposits slightly to take advantage of the fact that geometry exists in 3 planes. That should be enough to get you started. Later we can discuss strategies for sundry eventualities, such as the file cab .. drawer unit filling up.

    On a personal note, I would strongly recommend against actually looking for a particular item once it has been filed using this method. This is the point at which you might employ the google method, as you have more than once kindly called to my attention.

  9. A s-k-i-r-t! Yikes! Next thing we know you'll be sporting a mantilla (that's one of those lacey scarves) at Mass!
    One-two teaspoons of unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar with equal amount of raw honey in a cup or two of water (warm if you want to melt the honey better)a.m. and p.m. did wonders for my creaky neck and it even cured my waking up for Tums twice per night. Vinegar--go figure.

  10. Heather King, ex-lawyer, convert, author, blog writer and slave to ejf who one prays was writing with tongue in cheek.

    @Bird, "mantilla", that was hilarious. If that happens, we demand photo: after all, this is a serious commitment.

  11. As much as I brag about my Ikea assembly prowess, Heather, I continue to install runners upside-down. Old head injury, dontcha know.

  12. Why, this is extraordinary! Here I have been thinking, with some small sense of joy and gratification, that I have been doing my vocation proud, posting every other day, often an essay of 1000 words or more, for a year and a half—not at all! Unbeknownst to me, I have been “on probation” all this time! Day after day after day, EJF has been thinking, “When is that laggard, that sloth, that calls-herself-a-writer going to adequately account for the St. Francis quote?...

    Again, many people nowadays, including me, use computers, and no longer keep what is known as a “hard copy” of a file. As I believe I explained to you back then, the quote was from one of my many quote "files" (i.e. Word docs, this one from a doc entitled “Quotes.Global,” now running to 232 pages), and had no attribution other than St. Francis. My best guess, then as now, was that I copied it from a book that in turn had no other attribution than St. Francis. The problem wasn’t not being able to find the quote, in other words; it was that I gave y’all I had. I also did google it and couldn't find anything--if you do, please let me know!

    Here’s how it appears in my file, sandwiched between two other quotes also identified by author alone:

    There are no general absolutions anywhere in the Gospel. Every individual must step into the light alone, in isolation…He is presented with a task which he has to carry out completely on his own, which he may not delegate to anyone else, because personal love has entrusted him alone with it.
    Father Hans Urs von Balthasar

    Since the day of my conversion, I have never been well.
    St. Francis

    And perhaps the disease of the heart is caused by this. One does not rebel against things, it does no good; nor is one resigned to them; one’s ill because of them and one does not get better…
    Vincent van Gogh

    Under the circumstances, that last seems particularly apropos...

    And Bird—that is brilliant, a mantilla! My own first choice was a shroud—even now I have completed six rows, stockinette stitch, of what may turn out to be a scarf. Jet black, naturally, my favorite color….

    Apple cider vinegar is so my kind of remedy. I'm gonna try your tip forthwith...

  13. Oh also, Dylan, you're the best. Paul, you dawg, you, I would not be at all surprised to find myself purchasing a second unit myself. Diana, I'll make a note of Ravelry--I'm easing into what is obviously a whole UNIVERSE of knitters..and Jane, thank you! My friend Joan (65) has taken a class at L.A. Community College with "Miss Singer" called Stress Management Therapy or something like that which incorporates stretching, dance, "inner work" etc. They had a little recital at the end that I went to once to support Joan and everyone put on their own music and did their own dance they'd worked up and invited a friend or two and it was priceless. This is just the type of thing I love.

    Endless mystery, that we are incarnate beings...

  14. OK, OK. I admit it. The reason I have two is that I have loads of junk. You don't need two, so don't get competitive.

    But then I could excuse mine by saying some of the junk is rolls of cellotape, glue, felt pens, etc. for a nine year old who seems to need three rolls of tape and two glue sticks to make one cardboard robot, but it won't wash. I am a hopeless hoarder.

    When I see photos of your room, I always think, 'If only...'.

  15. Oh and one more thing. I found your look-alike. Google Mantilla the Hon. She resides on my second favorite blog site.

  16. I like you more after every post Heather! You will so enjoy knitting! Be patient with yourself, it can be frustrating at first but it's worth the struggle. There are some teach-yourself books that are excellent and you will love it. I did a lot of it when my son was growing up and think about taking it up again because it is soothing to the soul. What beautiful things you will make with just two needles and skeins of fiber! The prayer shawl groups are a good thing. Maybe you would like that, I'm thinking of it myself. Thanks again. Every day your post is the first thing I open in my mailbox. God bless you, Christine

  17. As for the St. Francis quote:

    True, not volume is mentioned. But here is another source!


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