Marching Forth


It’s always true. When you just get outside, something magical will always happen.

I almost didn’t go out. There was the knitting. The couch. The warm wood stove. The sharp wind.

But all of this amazingness was OUT THERE! I was thinking a lot about some special friends in my life while I was walking. Wishing so much Carrie was with me to admire this beauty.

{Are you freaking seeing this? For real?!}

Parenting from afar is new for me. (Oh sure, there’s still plenty of parenting to do right here at home. Don’t worry.) The hardest part about faraway parenting is striking the right balance: giving enough space, but also wanting to stay connected. Communication often happens digitally via text, by phone or FaceTime, sometimes inconsistently, and occasionally with urgency and all-caps.

As in (text):
MOM!
Or recently, when there was a very important message to deliver and all other forms of communication had failed, on his Facebook wall:
JONAS!!!! Call home.

I will always take his calls and I will always answer his messages as soon as I see them. When I don’t hear from him, I assume everything is fine.

I’ve been listening to Hamilton on repeat, as everyone in the world has. Loving it, just like everybody. I have to skip a couple of songs though, if I don’t want to get the twinkles in my eyes. This one, about his children: “Philip you outshine the morning sun, my son.” Sends me right over. Also, the terrible song where Hamilton’s son Philip has been shot in a duel and his mother is holding him as he dies in her arms. Any mom’s worst nightmare.

Worse than Eponine’s death in Les Mis! Any mom’s second-worst nightmare!

One of my favorite lines is one of King George’s, when he is singing to America:
“I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”
I’m knitting a new sweater, with some yarn I got with a birthday gift certificate to my local yarn shop, The Cashmere Goat. One of the best presents to get! So far, not much ripping out, but it’s no doubt in the future of this project somewhere. It is one of Kate Davies’ yoke patterns: Asta Sollilja. The beauty of modern times was that I got digital access to all of the patterns as soon as I had ordered the book online. I am delighting in reading about the history and cultural significance of yoked garments.

But really. This:

in which reading my own blog gives me personal insight

Apparently January represents an annual low-point for me. If you’re bored of the same old story because I have written about it before, feel free to give this post a pass.
January 22, 2012
January 21, 2011

Everything is exhausting and nothing is possible was a title I considered for this post. And I don’t know why I get surprised by the same old things every year: such as in August when summer has just run me over with its chaotic festivities, impromptu parties, house guests, and I am really ready for the form and structure of the school year to begin.
So this list was something I came home and wrote out. And the whole top part of the list is things I am not doing (Things To Not Do list), but basically the bottom line is this: I cannot currently do anything that is not in direct support of my home or family. Non-essential things are out. Obligations like I should be writing or meditating every day, or I should feed the birds because I was given a new bird feeder. Giving those up too. And not cleaning any bathrooms, planning meals, or picking up Sylvan every day.

There is not much I can eliminate from my work life, though I have some ideas about how I can  create better form and structure about how I focus my time. There are many important and wonderful things that are part of the work I do and sometimes it is hard for me to say no, and it is also hard for me to say not right now. I usually need Saturday spent entirely at home.
There are plenty of home chores that I will do joyfully like laundry and vacuuming and cooking, not so joyfully shopping, haranguing the 13 year-old, transporting the 13 year-old, etc.

I’m saying yes to a regimen of daily self-care, such as good long sleeps, reading long books about Siberia, exercise, and making things. Also, speaking of Siberia, we have been working on this puzzle of the world, and I have a renewed respect for just how large Russia is! {No wonder Putin thinks he’s so important!} And really there is just a vast expanse of pinkness that is Russia up there, with no words at all on the puzzle pieces which means tiny places too small even to make it to the map.
But it was the “On This Day” that reminded me of the Fabric Therapy post. And I realized: I never even used that fabric! I bought the backing and binding and everything and never used it. It was actually color and fabric and retail therapy, not so much sewing therapy…
So I flipped over my To Not Do  list and started sketching some ideas out. Happy foxes! Little Red Riding Hood! Bows! Tiny toadstools! Pink and blue and gray and white! Cheerful! 
Does this pink and blue parfait of sweetness match anything in my house? Not a bit. Here’s my color scheme for my home: the things that I find beautiful and like to look at. Boom! So simple.
Also: let me heartily recommend the joys of an electric mattress-warmer (Mr. Crafty for the win!). You can buy them with controls for both sides of the bed so that your spouse can have their side at whatever temperature they want. As if you needed an incentive to spend more time in your cozy bed reading.

~a little story about a princess and her foolishness~

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~#1 birthday knitting project completed, the jenny/brooks chevron scarf~

Once Upon a Time

When the prince left town,

the princess had to start her own fires and make her own coffee.

And thank god it was warmish because the prince also starts the princess’s car each morning.

The joke, however, was on the princess

one very dark morning,

when she was so very very far away in dreams:

morning yoga was out of the question

and just getting out of bed

was a triumph.

She made her own coffee in the dark, cold kitchen.

It was quiet.

She made sure both boys had smoothies ready for them, with lunches in various stages of preparedness, little notes where necessary:

THIS TIME: EAT YOUR VEGGIES.

FINISH YOUR MAP OF ITALY.

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Only later in the day did the ridiculous headache start,

a certain lack of focus like moving in thick water,

and a complete plummet of perkiness

ensued after lunch.

The princess begged the school nurse for some almond butter on a cracker—

perhaps her healthy salad wasn’t enough for lunch?

Driving home,

nauseous from the headache that was alternatively sharp and dull and everywhere at once,

she recalled the prince saying something about putting the coffee in some blahblah new place blahblah.

But since she was the princess,

at the time it didn’t really concern her,

not being the one who makes the coffee after all.

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The princess had unknowingly reached for the jar of decaf and made herself a cup.

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~st. patrick’s day brooding~
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~this is what they really look like: smiley, handsome, delightful~

more wonderland

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I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the snow we have been experiencing here this winter. It’s basically a winter wonderland every single day. Snow and snow and snow. It’s the winter for jumping off roofs, sledding, skiing, and of course, shoveling.

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~two of my favorite friends between sled runs~
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~valentines from two sweet girls~

And knitting. I finished this Wave Shawl, a belated holiday gift for my mom. It felt a little like work by the end of that LONG hypotenuse side of the triangle. The yarn is yummy merino and silk.
SONY DSC SONY DSCAnd now I am onto Thing 1 of my birthday year knitting! (See here for more info). Two lovely skeins from two friends. The variegated is Misti Alpaca Qolla, in the most luscious tide pool colorway, all slate and greens and rusty and teal. And the solid is Yak/Merino by Lang. Super soft and yummy. 
SONY DSCSONY DSCThe chevron is a nice stitch idea from another special friend and Thing 1 will be a scarf. The stitch pattern is easy and it’s very pleasing to look at.
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I’ve embarked on a writing journey this winter, simple really, just write every day for 108 days. If you skip a day, no problem, no stress. There’s a Facebook group, if you’re interested in joining. It feels exciting to be doing this. Below is something that will give you a little picture into the last slog of knitting that lovely shawl.

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My Brain on Knitting

We can blame the dopamine receptors

for why the

–anticipation–

of creating the new knitting project

is so alluring.

Anticipating and planning

releases more dopamine

than actually doing it.

I’m an addict.

 

It really is a sort of itch,

my mind just wants to go there all the time,

pursue the math of the puzzle,

the new gauge,

learning the new stitch pattern.

This conception phase is like that obsessive love,

the kind that looks for every possible

“chance” encounter,

when you might “happen” to run into each other between classes

if you take the back hallway,

since he’ll be coming from gym.

And it’s not like it’s that much out of your way.

Anyway,

so totally worth it,

even if it was.

 

This is my brain in love with an idea,

really an ideal,

because the gleam of perfection has not yet worn off.

It’s just that tantalizing puzzle,

the new sexy yarn,

and oh!

those colors.

 

I’m so ready to dump that old nag project.

We’re almost done with each other.

I did love it once,

before it became an obligation,

the knitting equivalent of calling every night,

texting all day long,

being too needy.

Still beautiful, sure,

but so clingy.

 

Would it be cheating to knit a small swatch

with that new dreamboat yarn?

Just a tiny one?
No.

You’re right,

I’ll just have to face that sad old thing

eyeing me balefully from the knitting bag.

 

It’s for someone I love,

that’s all that’s keeping me going now.

And I did love the project once,

loved it enough to impulse-buy the yarn in the shop

because they had a gorgeous sample knit up.

The pattern was free,

the lace sequence was easy to learn.

 

Winding up the ball of new yarn wouldn’t count as cheating, right?

It’s casual,

just a quick coffee.

Nothing serious.

OK.

Fine.

You’re right: I’m fickle.

 

I’ll do what’s right by the soft, elegant shawl—

the color of morning glories.

I’ll finish it.

Stick with it to the end.

Power through that damn hypotenuse of the triangle,

knitting for miles.

 

But, know this:

I’ll be riding those dopamine highs in my thoughts,

as I imagine my hands on that next project.

 

Anticipation is a delicious moment.

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Birthday Girl

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SONY DSCWell, Alice, my birthday was the one that just happened! This is a reference to Frances the Badger, from the series by Russell Hoban, who told her imaginary friend Alice: “That is how it is, Alice. Your birthday is always the one that is not now.”

I made lemon curd for a crowd: it was 8 full eggs plus 8 yolks and 3 sticks of butter, plus tons of sugar and delicious lemon juice (12 lemons/2 cups).
SONY DSCThere were beautiful tulips and some roses too. Inspired by my reading of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (mentioned here), I asked each guest to write down a few things: a favorite book title, favorite poem, favorite movie, and a memory of a time we were together. I was even gifted a mixed music CD! Some read their poems aloud and shared their memories—so fun to hear all those good times spoken about, sharing such good company with some of the women I admire and love the most.
SONY DSCI also asked each guest for a skein of yarn. To be turned into somethings or a something… to commemorate the occasion of turning 40, a grand and grown-up birthday.

SONY DSCOne theme of memories emerged: experiences that we shared outside and in the kitchen. Now I have this beautiful collection of cards and poems to read and re-read, new movies to seek out, and books!
SONY DSC SONY DSCBooks, memories, yarn, cards, chatting, and a delicious meal catered by my dear family. I was surrounded by love all weekend. What could be more perfect?

Oh and wait. Here is something incredible: two friends brought two skeins of the exact same yarn, in a different dyelot, but the exact same colorway (luscious purples)—even purchased in two different states! Unbelievable!SONY DSCHere’s a poem from today, while I shoveled:

Andy Goldswothy,
where were you today
when I was shoveling
still more snow ?

Each shovelful
flung airborne,
was a moment for your team
to photograph.

(Just out of curiosity,
did you get any snow down your neck
or sprinkling your face
when it was blown back?)

The dusk was falling
and the quality of light
was soft,
muffled,
grayish-blue.
And because it was so cold,
the snow was tiny,
granular,
crisp.

The sound of the snowflakes
as they sailed off the shovel,
was
hush hush
shush.
Like plunging your hand
into a barrel of cool, dry lentils.
Or barnacles whispering.

When I waded over to the wood pile,
it was too hard to walk
in the drifts.
So I crawled.
And this was better,
but the snow
kept sneaking into my mittens;
the worst feeling besides
taking off a boot
when your sock comes with it.
(Later, this happened too).

Being in the snow is the same
as playing in the water:
a short-cut directly to joy.

Andy, if you come to photograph
me and the shovel,
be sure to bring the sound equipment.

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~sweater story~

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~February Lady sweater is finished~

You may remember my winter sweater project from this post. And now I am done! I LOVED loved L O V E D making this sweater. A feature I particularly enjoyed was the gull-lace pattern which is so pretty but easy to memorize. AND, friends, this is what is most essential for me as a knitter, it was easy to learn the visual map of the pattern: the ability for me to “see” where I was in the pattern, even if I had to set it down briefly. There is nothing more annoying than a pattern for which you have to pay attention every moment to know where you are in it. That is not my life.

SONY DSCSONY DSCEvery sweater I knit has a story. This sweater was begun when we were still envisioning our home, creating our house design, figuring out whether we could actually DO this project. Now our house is being built (R40 walls, people!), we are working on the site, and things are really moving forward. This sweater feels tied to this concept of collaboration, creation, manifestation of a vision.
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There are a lot of deer in our new neighborhood, a herd of maybe 20 big ones and little ones. So these antler buttons seemed like the perfect choice, from the very nice people at The Cashmere Goat. Misty was especially sweet (always!) and she even helped me find some great sale yarn for a few smaller projects. 
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So it’s March, the ugliest time of the whole year. Gray and muddy and cold and nasty. These are some of the process pictures of our site. They are not pretty.
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I mean, the excavator is pretty, if you’re into that sort of thing. Our team has been very hard at work on the site and it is pretty amazing to see how far it has come.
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SONY DSCThese two old oaks with the blue ribbons will definitely stay. They are lovely guardians.

And because some of you like to know my favorite books, here is a little visual.

~sneak peek~

SONY DSC ~last week’s storm blowing out~
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This is my latest project, the February Lady sweater from Ravelry, since I am both a February Lady and a “grown-ass woman,” as the pattern specifies. And because I am me, I underestimated the size of my (apparently) Larger-Than-Normal shoulders and had to rip out the whole yoke a couple of weekends ago and start again. Do you recognize the heather gray yarn? The very same exact yarn in which I knit Mr. Crafty’s EZ Seamless Hybrid sweater a few years ago, from Webs.

Who would believe I would return to boring old heather gray?! But I loved how, when I consulted the Ravelry Yarns tab (new favorite crowdsourcing feature!), the February Lady looks when knit up in a cozy gray. It sets off the gull lace pattern so nicely. And I know already that the yarn holds up after wearing it—no pills!

SONY DSCAnd the thing about knitting even a simple lace pattern like this one is that it’s necessary to learn the topography of the pattern, by observing the landmarks and paying careful attention. So that eventually I can look at the knitting in front of me and know what I am seeing, like reading a map, and know what to do. And I can tell when I have made a mistake, so that I can tink it out (TINK is KNIT backwards). Yet again.
SONY DSC Here are a few sneak peeks at our new land in Hope! We were out working on it for a few hours this weekend, clearing out some of the smaller little trees you see above, on the part that will soon have our house, driveway, and yard on it. It was a team effort, we were all out there. Today was very very cold and crisp.
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~this little stream runs below and behind where our house will be~

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC~I guess we can take down the snowy realtor’s sign!~

I’m reading Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Stieg Larsson fans (of which I am not), dust off this old book from the 90s! Clearly an inspiration to the current popularity of dark, Scandi-thriller-lit. I mean do you know anything about Greenland? Neither did I, but the it’s the usual story: a country with lots of natural resources gets overtaken by a European country (Denmark) which takes advantage of the native Inuit culture and takes all of their resources too. The writing is so unusual; the protagonist, Greenlandic-Danish Smilla, is totally unusual and unexpected. She wears seal-skin pants (!) and hops around on ice flows and can read the snow. Seriously. She READS the snow. So that’s what I’m reading and am surprised to be enjoying it.

In other Scandinavian news: Norway‘s National Library has figured out how to digitize currently in copyright books, pay the copyright-holders and authors, and you know, make culture available equitably. Sigh. Those darned Scandinavians, at it again, making the rest of us look like complete tools. All this AND gun control, universal healthcare, and access to higher education? The mind boggles.