Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tamarisk Beauty

Unless one is partial to dry, dusty foliage and the colors brown and grey-green, one must look intently to find autumn beauty in the Middle East. And, that looking is best done in the early morning hours, before the midday day heat and city commotion dulls one's perception of beauty.

Our family practice of jogging three mornings a week affords me the opportunity to enjoy the early morning stillness and coolness in which beauty is more likely to be found. A couple of weeks ago, as we were out for a morning jog, Dear Husband described a small tree to me which we pass at least four times every time we run. I hadn't noticed it before but it caught Dear Husband's eye as it was covered with dew which glistened in the light of the newly risen sun. Dew in Jordan in September is notable.

Even before I saw the plant, I guessed that he had seen a tamarisk tree because of his mention of dew and because of what I remembered learning from my botany professor, Dr. Lytton Musselman, about the tamarisk tree.

I told Dear Husband that I predicted the dew would be salty. It was. Very. I remembered Dr. Mussleman describing the way the tamarisk tree, which is found along the Dead Sea, absorbs salt from the saline soil in which it thrives. Its scale-like leaves secrete this salt. The salt absorbs water at night, which evaporates soon after the sun rises, and in doing so, provides cooler air beneath its branches, making the tamarisk a desirable shade tree for desert dwellers.

It also provides some early autumn morning beauty in an otherwise arid landscape.

The tamarisk is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament; it is first mentioned Genesis 21:33:

"Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God." (English Standard Version)

Pulling Dr.Mussleman's book, Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh, Plants of the Bible and the Quran

 from my bookshelf, I found more interesting information about the tamarisk tree:

  • The hard durable trunks of the  tarmarisk were used in the fortification of Masada.
  • King Saul held court under a tamarisk (I Samuel 22:6) and was buried under a tamarisk (I Samuel 31:13). 
  • The tamarisk is mentioned in the Qu'ran in reference to a judgement which leads to desertification (Sura 34:15-16, Ali).
And here is an interesting article as to why the tamarisk, with its affinity for alkaline soils and incredibly long taproots, is an unwelcome stranger in the western United States. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Quilt for an Artist Son

Oldest Daughter didn't receive her college quilt until the fall of her sophomore year, Active Son received his quilt after completing his first semester, but I somehow managed to finish making Artist Son's quilt so that he could take it with him to college. It was still down to the wire, though: I finished the machine quilting just in time to take the quilt with us to a family reunion in Montana, where I completed hand-sewing the binding. My goal had been to bring the finished quilt with us from Jordan when we traveled to the US in May, but that goal was much too lofty for me to attain. I did manage to bring back the pieced quilt top--at least it was easy to pack!

 Plain Spoken, designed by Bill Kerr

The Modern Quilt Workshop

My third quilt made from recycled clothing  was constructed using pieces from 25 men's 100% cotton shirts that I purchased from the used clothing souq in Amman (Souq Jumma'). Artist Son chose the design and approved my color scheme. I'm still keeping it simple as I am precision-challenged and have a hard time getting my lines straight and my points lined up. So as not to emphasize my wiggly waggly seams, I decided to machine quilt using diagonal lines which would cut across rather than follow seam lines. I used approximately 3 inch wide masking tape as my stitching guide.

The multi-color binding was made from scraps of the same fabrics.

I forgot to take a picture of the back, but the quilt is backed with chocolate brown minky fabric, just like Active Son's, and I did the machine quilting with the same shade of brown thread.

I think it is the perfect quilt for an artist son. It certainly brightens up his dorm room! I hope that he is cheered by is colors and kept warm by its bulk on grey winter days.

One the most satisfying aspects of finishing a quilt is shifting my mind to begin thinking about the next quilt. I have some ideas but need to do some shirt, I mean fabric, shopping first. Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish up a scrappy wool throw that I began last spring in yet another over-optimistic burst of creative energy. It's been too hot around here to even think about wool, but it is finally cooling off (low-mid 80's) so maybe I'll be able to finish it up this week. Or next.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Dorm Sweet Home

Being on the road as I was throughout the last half of August, I did miss Active Son's move back to college, but Dear Husband and Artist Son were on hand for the assist. I was later able to visit Active Son in his dorm room at Boise State, where he works as a Resident Advisor, and was gratified to experience the immaculate and organized state of his room. He has a definite Middle Eastern motif going on, with the kaffiyahs (headscarves) draped over the heater and microwave, and Arabic Scripture (to the right of his head) and the Jordanian flag on his wall.

The poster over his bed shows a scene from a Jordanian spice souk. Dorm sweet home. I like the soccer by the head of his bed. First things first.

I asked Dear Husband to PLEASE take a  picture of  The Brothers before they went their separate ways to college and he remembered (!)  They're looking good with their off-to-college haircuts, especially since they went to an Iraqi barber who knows how to give a good haircut, Middle Eastern style.