Category Archives: Transitions

Somewhere in the Stars: Tanabata

We are in the midst of summer and a period ruled by stars: Sirius, Altair, and Vega. Sirius, the Dog Star, entered onto the scene a few days ago: by July 3rd, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, began rising with the sun. The sun occupies the same part of the sky as Sirius through the middle of August. It just so happens to be the hottest time of the year while all this is going on… and so we call these hottest days of the year, ruled by Sirius, the Dog Days of Summer.

That’s our story about Sirius in Canis Major. Meanwhile, here is an old story from Japan that relates to our other summer stars, Altair and Vega: It is the story of Hikoboshi, the Cow Herder, and Orihime, the beautiful daughter of the Sky King, Tentei. Orihime wove beautiful cloth on the banks of the Amanogawa, the Milky Way. Her father loved the cloth she wove, and so she worked very hard to make enough for him so that he would always have plenty of it. But Orihime worked so hard at her weaving that she never had time for anything else. And as much as Tentei loved the cloth Orihime wove, he knew she needed some balance, some time away from her work, and so he arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi, the Cow Herder, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa.

And so Orihime and Hikoboshi met. They fell in love right then and there. The two soon married, and that was wonderful, but they became so enamored with each other that all else fell by the wayside. Orihime pretty much gave up her work at the loom, and as for Hikoboshi’s cattle, well, they were soon roaming all over Heaven. Tentei grew angrier and angrier over all this, until finally he had enough. He separated the two lovers on either side of the Amanogawa and forbade them to see each other. Orihime despaired over the loss of her husband and pleaded with her father. Moved by his daughter’s tears, Tentei relented. But he allowed the two lovers to meet only once each year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. And so the story goes each year, and here we are today: the seventh day of the seventh month. It is the Japanese star festival, Tanabata.

As stars, the lovers are Vega and Altair: Vega, the Weaver Star, is Orihime, and Altair, the Cowherd Star, is Hikoboshi, separated always by the Milky Way, except, as legend has it, for this one night each year when they are reunited. Beneath the stars, here on Earth, we honor Orihime and Hikoboshi by writing wishes on strips of paper and tying them to the trees. Bamboo is traditional, and that’s what I tied my wishes to last year, but I would think any tree would do. Heaven and the stars, I am sure, grant us a bit of leeway in these matters.

Two or three of my wishes from last year remain still on the bamboo outside our back door. The ink is long faded. I know I wished for protection, and for good health for us all, and especially for my father. His health gradually faded over the seven months that followed, until his death in February. But I am grateful he did not suffer terribly, and so perhaps that was the best manifestation of my wishes for good health and protection. Will I write some wishes on paper and tie them to the bamboo this year? Probably, though it most likely won’t be until after dark. There are no rules about that, either, and if there are, well, again: Heaven and the stars surely can be flexible with us mortals.

Perhaps it is all these thoughts of stars, but there is a song that popped into my head last night, a song I’ve not thought of in years. In 1982, when my grandpa Arturo died, Rosanne Cash released a record called Somewhere in the Stars. I know the title track is a sappy love song, but even so, I was able to reinterpret it for my own situation. It meant a lot to me then when I was missing Grandpa, and it suddenly means a lot to me tonight, too, missing him again, and my dad, and everyone else who is somewhere other than where I’d like them to be (like right here in front of me). If it’s a little sappy, so be it. I’m a little sappy sometimes, too, and there are nights when we need stories about dog stars and star-crossed lovers and reminders of all the ones we love.


This chapter of the Convivio Book of Days was originally printed on the 7th of July, 2017. Three years later, the sentiment is the same. Top Image: A very particular Somewhere in the Stars. This is a Hubble Telescope wide field image showing the “Summer Triangle,” a giant triangle in the sky composed of three bright summer stars: Vega (top left), Altair (lower middle), and Deneb (far left). Can you make out the triangle? [Public domain] via NASA, 2009.



Midsommar, or Your June Book of Days

Here is the sixth month of the year, June. Late in the month comes the midsummer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere: the longest day of our year, the day with the most sunlight. This is an important time in places like Sweden, where, near the Arctic Circle, the sun will be above the horizon for most of the day––the other side of the coin from midwinter in December. Seth’s cousin married a Swede; when she got to the States, this may be what she missed most from her homeland: the celebration of Midsommar around St. John’s Day, the 24th of June. All these years later, perhaps Ulrika still misses this each June.

Be that as it may, here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for June. We rarely use Convivio Bookworks products as cover stars in our calendars, but this month we did. Our photo this month is of the little tableau we’ve created in the corner cupboard in our kitchen. It features a pine tree candle and the new midsummer ornament we sell in our Convivio by Mail catalog. It’s handmade in Sweden of painted wood and ribbon.

I hope you’re doing well enough as we come to welcome summer. The times are challenging, this is for sure. Lake Worth has become a hot spot for new Covid-19 cases in the past week or two, but Seth and I: we go nowhere, really. The governor says it’s fine to be out and about, but we’re not paying attention to politicians in general these days. These same politicians are also not helping things much in that our country is suffering not just from a new virus but from a much older disease, one that goes back to its history of being built on a foundation of slavery. A century and a half later, we still can’t shake the inequality that is its legacy; it only grows worse. As much as I like to close each Convivio Book of Days post with something positive and uplifting, for the time being, I don’t think I can. The people in charge are divisive, concerned only with casting blame, which gets us nowhere. Violence, I feel, is never a good idea, and yet I see that the people who want to affect change find themselves cast as thugs, or undermining American ideals, even if they take a peaceful approach. What are American ideals? Equality, I think. And being able to live our lives without fear. These are the basics, and yet an entire segment of Americans do not have these luxuries.


Join me if you can each Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern time for a live, unscripted broadcast on our Facebook page of Book Arts 101: Home Edition––a weekly ramble through the book arts, craft, design, and whatever else drifts through my head. You can watch later (again, at our Convivio Bookworks Facebook page) should you not be able to watch at 3.


Still Here

The month of May has flown, hasn’t it? And with not a word from me. I’m still here, though, quarantining at home, doing well. Each day is full, what with working from home and tackling some dormant projects and adapting to the cat’s new feeding schedule. She seems to require meals beyond her traditional breakfast, dinner, 9:30 snack, and midnight snack. Now there is also lunch, the 8:30 snack that precedes 9:30 snack, and the 2 AM snack, too, should I be up that late. Most nights I am.

Most of the projects I am working on I am not quite ready to talk about. At least one of them I’d classify as something I never thought I’d ever do, and yet here I am, doing it, and it’s been a bit all-consuming in the nighttime hours when I am not working.

Another is something I’ve been doing for work, since March, I think: it’s a live broadcast each Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern time on our Facebook page. It’s called Book Arts 101: Home Edition––a weekly ramble through the book arts, craft, design, and whatever else drifts through my head. The broadcast this Wednesday will be about that place where the book arts intersect with the culinary arts, and I’ll be talking a lot, I’m sure, about the things that influence me to write this blog. The fact is Book Arts 101 is unscripted and only loosely planned and most weeks I do it by the seat of my pants. Seth likes to show me bloopers of live news casts just before each episode. I do have a healthy dose of stage fright before each broadcast, but the fact is that 3:00 comes and there is nothing to do but click “GO LIVE.” Each week I promise I’ll be there, and so I do it.

And so tonight I have nothing to remind you of, no holidays, no holy days. I just wanted to check in, say hello, how you doing? Very well, I hope. If you can join me Wednesday at 3, I’d love it if you could. You can watch the video later, too; it’s usually posted to our Facebook page right after the live broadcast ends. You can also view the first eight broadcasts in the archive that’s kept at the Facebook page of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Clicking that link now makes me realize I wear an awful lot of plaid. So be it.

Image: Some of the books that have had a major influence on me (and this blog), as well as one of my first handmade books: U Cutto: An Old Family Recipe, which I printed and bound in an edition of 65 copies in 1996. The title reflects my grandparents’ regional dialect. They were Italian, but the language they spoke was Lucerine, an Arabic influenced dialect from their region of Puglia.