Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hoarding Wishes: A Tale of Oceans, Immigrants, and Dandelions

Bottled wishes

In the Western world we wish on stars, we wish on dandelions, and in my family we wish on bales of hay. Years ago I met a man who wished on the ocean and has regretted it ever since. An immigrant from Vietnam, he made his wish on the ocean when he was one of the boat people fleeing Vietnam. He wished he could go to America. At a refugee camp in Thailand he told immigration authorities that's where he wanted to go. Once he was in America for a couple of years he realized he'd made a terrible mistake and should have wished for Australia. "But," he said with a sigh, "you only get one wish on the ocean."

Too bad for him, but great news for me. I'd never heard of wishing on the ocean, which means I had a brand new wishing technique at my disposal. However, since you only get one wish on the ocean I keep waiting until I can figure out something really good to wish for. After years of flinging my wishes to the stars and the wind and bales of hay, I have become a wish hoarder. 

These little bottles filled with dandelion wishes can be used in a couple of ways. You may save the dandelion wishes until something wish-worthy comes up, decant the bottle, shake out the wishes, and blow them away to be fulfilled. Or ... you can fling the wish bottle into the ocean when and if you are finally ready to make your one and only wish on the ocean. There's no real connection between dandelion wishes and ocean wishes, but it seems like it would produce a double-whammy. I also like the vague message-in-a-bottle connection (in fact you could record your wish on a tiny scroll and insert it in the bottle), and the idea that someone somewhere may come across this little bottle full of wishes washed up on the shore.

Step one: carefully pick dandelion

Step two: store dandelion in an artful ad hoc assemblage during prepping

Step four: assemble tiny vintage perfume bottles

Use tweezers and toothpick to insert wishes into bottles

Bottle one

Bottle two

Bottle three

The complete wish collection

Postscript: A little more about wishes

Wishing on a star: Origins date back to worship of Venus in ancient Rome. Venus is the first bright star that appears at sunset ("Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight...).

Wishing as You Blow on a Dandelion: Dandelions were known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They were probably brought to America on the Mayflower. They have been used for divination (blow, and the number of seeds remaining tell you how many years until you'll be married or how many children you'll have). Wishing techniques vary. The one I grew up with is to wish and then blow, and whoever catches the seed someplace far away will grant your wish. An alternate method dictates that it is catching a blown seed that grants you a wish. The nicest origin story for this wishing technique is that the dandelion seeds are really fairies or sylphs and they grant you a wish for freeing them to fly away.

Wishing on a Bale of Hay: I grew up with this tradition and assumed it was widely shared until my sisters and I discovered that no one else in the world makes a wish when they spot a bale of hay ("Bale of hay - make a wish!') We now suspect my grandfather made this up. I still make a wish every time I see a bale of hay.

Wishing on the Ocean: Other than the old Vietnamese man I encountered on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, I have never heard or been able to track down any other account of this belief regarding one wish on the ocean.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spiraling Out of Control: Upcycled Shirt #23 or So

There is simply no better way to do a simple upcycle on a shirt than to add spirals. This is a cotton man's shirt from India called a kurta. The original version is long and plain. A globe-trotting friend gives me lots of these, and I find them the perfect blank canvas for creative stitchery.

The black fabric for the spirals came from chopping off the bottom segment of another kurta - the one I used to create The Astounding Magic Puppet Shirt. Strips of cloth are sewn into a long tube shape, then pinned down into a spiral.

Pinning down a spiral

The spiral stitched down

Tricky shoulder spiral

The almost-finished shirt

As usual I found the kurta just a bit too long, so fabric is chopped off the bottom and the piece is rehemmed to create the final version.

Completed front

Completed back

Try spiraling out of control yourself. To my mind spirals make almost anything better. They're also yet another handy way to hide a stain.

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