Shepherd's Wool in a pattern called Danger. While I knitted, temperatures dipped below freezing and remained bitterly cold. In fact, the weather was so cold, I completed the bind-off, wove in the beginning and ending ends, and wore the scarf without washing and blocking. For some reason, the name "Danger" reminds me of the "here be dragons" phrase cartographers of the early 1500's used to indicate danger. As I walked on bitter cold days with the scarf wrapped around my face, I thought, "here be danger." Still on those cold days, the neighborhood is quiet and there is a certain kind of beauty in the contrast of snow and bare tree trunks. As I came home to soup bubbling in the crock pot or carrots and squash roasting in the oven, I savored the peace of winter days. Soon enough lawnmowers and other power tools will disturb the quiet.
Yesterday was unseasonably warm so I drove out to a trail bordering a wooded area for a walk. Even though I walked in a fleece jacket without hat or scarf, the grasses and adjacent wooded area looked like winter. Songbirds were not visible. Instead I saw only a hawk riding thermals in the wind and two big crows perched in tall elms. On the last leg of my walk, I found this wispy feather attached to the twig of a bush. I wish I knew what kind of bird shed this tiny feather with the splotch of gray along the shaft. After a walk through a monochromatic landscape, the feather made me smile.
February marks the month when the light begins to increase. The change is quite subtle, nevertheless the color of the sunny sky seems different to me. The days of slightly increasing light offer the hope of Spring. I hear more bird song too. I recently read that birds don't migrate based on temperatures but on the changes in light.
Last night I put another inch on the "Current" cardigan I cast on last summer. The yarn is a soft sage green. Knitting an adult sweater from fingering yarn with miles of stockinette stitches is a bit like slugging through winter. I wanted to make sure the sweater was worth my time so I put the body stitches on waste yarn, tried it on, and decided I like the fit. Tomorrow the forecast is for cold and snow but yesterday after my walk, I planted basil and chamomile seeds. The basil seeds came free in the mail. I don't know if they will germinate but I decided to plant them in pots and tend them from the kitchen counter. Any extra green color is welcome. I wish you enough color and light to see your way through the remaining days of February.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
A Novel Idea, one of my local used bookstores, is a great adventure and a way to view books before purchasing.
Recently, I ordered a couple of books by a lesser known author because I wanted to compare her poetry and prose. When the book arrived in June, I put it on the stack in my writing room. When I opened it this winter, I discovered it was a signed copy. The paperback is worn but author's signature is very clear.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
A few days ago, I sprinkled seed on the brick ledge outside the window in order to feed the birds and observe them closely. When I pulled up the blinds this morning two female cardinals and a junco huddled on the ledge pecking at the seed. Soon they were joined by three male cardinals flying back and forth from the nearby birch. Tiny pieces of ice encrusted the mask of an older male. One of the females had a piece of ice at the hinge of her beak. They all differed in coloring and build. The slightest and youngest male was the most aggressive, flying at any other bird who tried to join him on the ledge. The other two males commanded the best spaces on the ledge by turning their heads quickly back and forth. The female cardinals were aware but unconcerned with the presence of other birds. Now and then a pair of nervous chickadees flitted in for a quick treat before darting down into the bushes in front of the house. Snow highlighted the remarkable patterns of the sparrows' markings. One sported a bib of closely spaced charcoal dots while another had a white line around his neck, much like a turtleneck shirt keeping him warm. Little flakes of snow clung to the beaks of the juncos. Sparrows, juncos, and finches fed in groups gaining warmth from each other and reminding me that sharing a meal is an age-old way to connect with others.
My personal New Year's Day parade ended late morning leaving me time to consider my own New Year. Rather than make resolutions for 2014, I plan to "Begin as I mean to go on." (Quote from Charles H. Spurgeon, courtesy of Wikipedia) Yesterday I put away the Christmas decorations and straightened the living room and dining area so the house is in relatively good order. Spotless, I have decided, is not necessary. On the eve of the New Year, Lance and I shared a meal with another couple. We came home early so I made a cup of tea and opened a new book. Lance wrapped up in the afghan I finished earlier in the week. The afghan was a two winter project knit from a basket of leftover yarns which only goes to show I don't always need new skeins of yarn.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Early in October, I examined the last chicory blossoms which I have long admired while driving on highways. One quiet afternoon, I stood still and identified a flicker, a downy woodpecker, and several red-bellied woodpeckers hopping up and down large trunks. I still wonder how birds, without binocular vision, dart through a wooded area without flying into trees. I finally understood how purple can be an autumn color and wondered if I could find yarn in a similar color. At the end of the month, I savored the smell of decaying leaves and the last golden light of October.
My favorite walk was the one I took with my daughter and grandsons. The three year old was exuberant with his discoveries. When we came upon a downed tree, he explored the hollow trunk and thought hard about what kind of animal might shelter inside. After he bent over to study a fuzzy caterpillar, he watched it "go home to its mama" and chose a broken stick for a treasure. He eagerly walked to the next bend in the woods looking for a deer but was happy to find a milkweed pod. We paused on the trail while he worried it might sting. After we assured him it was a plant not an insect, he worked up the courage to touch the rough exterior of the pod and laughed as the soft fluff and seed grazed his hand. The baby slept in a front pack carrier on his mother's chest. He woke up as we were returning to the car so she took him out and held him so he could see the afternoon light coming through the trees.
Now, it is late November. I will miss the scarlet and butterscotch leaves of this glorious autumn. Something in the west wind tells me it is time to draw in, grind up cranberries, roast a turkey breast, and wrap up in wool. The first dusting of snow fell last week and my grandson called to ask if I liked to go sledding. Echoing one of his favorite responses I replied, "Sounds fun." As some wise person (whose name I can't remember) said, "Thanksgiving is about what you have." I am so thankful for all that I have and wish the same for you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Mary and I are both retired teachers. On the first day in a new job, I stopped to talk to her because she was reading a picture book about quilting to her first grade class. Our friendship developed from common interests of quilting, knitting, and gardening. Mary's husband's grandmother, Olive, was the original owner of the chair. Family members recall the petite woman sat in this rocker as she pieced and quilted. Mary owns a few of her quilts. We both agree she did beautiful hand piecing and quilting.
When I placed the dusty chair in our basement, I wondered if someone had taken an ordinary chair and screwed it onto rockers in order to make a comfortable chair for Olive. This fall I contacted a local man who refinishes old furniture and made arrangements for him to inspect the chair. When my husband and I took the chair to his shop, we enjoyed looking at his work. He is a meticulous craftsman who enjoys restoring old pieces. The gentleman thought Olive's chair was quite sturdy and was willing to take on the project. We agreed on the cost of his work and left the chair. About six weeks later, we returned to pick up the rocker.
Recently, I asked Mary what she recalled about the long ago quilter. In 1877, Olive and her husband Hugh left Black Earth, Wisconsin and settled in southeast Nebraska. At the time Olive was twenty-five years old and the couple had been married about a year. Hugh and Olive had two daughters and one son who was disabled due to his difficult birth. Mary thought Hugh ran a "team and wagon business." He may have rented out a team of horses and a wagon. He also repaired wagons. Perhaps he crafted the chair for Olive or perhaps he received the chair in trade for his work. Perhaps he hired someone in the community to make the chair. That part of the story is lost.
When I look at the chair, I imagine Olive rocking as she mended socks, made clothing for her family, and sewed quilt blocks. I wonder how many needles she had and if she unraveled garments in order to have sewing thread for quilt piecing. When Hugh died in 1916, Olive was fifty-two years old. Perhaps she rocked in this chair as she grieved and pieced her life back together. Perhaps she helped with the business or perhaps she sold it and lived on the income. I do know she hand quilted through her lifetime. Together Olive and her unmarried daughter took care of the son who was unable to walk until Olive died in 1940. She was 86 years of age.
The little refinished chair does not look as if it is over one hundred years old. It is quite sturdy and I plan to spend some time rocking in it. After the holidays, I may go through my quilt projects and find something to finish. Perhaps I will knit in this chair. Mary is now in her eighties and happy for the rocker to have a new home. I like to think Olive would also be pleased the chair is being used by another woman who enjoys handwork.
Monday, October 28, 2013
During one of those cold winters, my sister knit me a pair of fingerless mitts from a blue/gray cashmere yarn. I kept them in my desk and wore them often. Her gift, made by hand, was a great kindness. I knew I was loved and my hands were warm. When I retired I brought the mitts home and still wear them on chilly mornings as I work at my desk.
fingerless mitts combining leftover yarn from two previous projects. I added four stitches to the palm for a better fit with this yarn and my hands. I wear them while driving. I knit a second pair using pale pink alpaca yarn. I finished the first mitt and the cuff of the second before I realized I hadn't twisted the second cable. Alpaca yarn doesn't have as much memory as yarn spun from wool. If I ripped out and reknit the yarn, the twist might have loosened and made the mitts less sturdy. Instead, I decided to call the omitted cable a design element and keep them. I'll see how they wear with only one cabled twist.
While knitting the pink pair, I thought about knitters and hands. As a knitter, I applaud both knitwear designers who create patterns and the dyers and spinners who create yarns. I knit by hand rather than by machine. While many knitters, knit gifts for family and friends, others knit for charity, giving hats and mittens in order to lend a hand to someone else. What would the world be like if we were all willing to extend tolerance and grace with a warm hand of friendship?
All musing aside, I am enjoying the fingerless mitts. I knit the deep melon colored mitts for an elderly friend with arthritic hands. Over the years, we have shared quilting and knitting projects. Lately arthritis makes it difficult for her to piece and quilt by hand. She still knits so I hope these fit and keep her warm in the mountains of Montana. I don't have a recipient in mind for the smaller cabled mitts but I'm sure I will find someone who will enjoy wearing them. The wool yarn is leftover from the first lace shawl I knit in 2002 so I am pleased to have used up the remaining skein. I plan to knit the same mitts in a solid colored yarn so the cable is more visible. Currently, I am knitting a wee green hat for my youngest grandson to wear on Halloween. He is only two and a half months old but Halloween is four days away so I will knit for him on this autumn evening. In the meantime, I wish you warm hands and a Happy Halloween.
Friday, October 4, 2013
I planted zinnias because the bright flowers require little work but bloom all summer. For example, I planned to thin the plants but never did so. The zinnias didn't seem to mind. After one summer storm with wind, my husband and I were staking up tomato plants. Since the zinnias had also blown over, we wrapped twine around the flowers and two short stakes at either end of the plants to bring them back to an upright position. The hearty flowers never stopped blooming and grew even taller. Perhaps the closely planted stalks support each other in the wind.
Zinnias also remind me of my Mom. She struggled to grow vegetables and flowers in the hard clay soil around our home. She liked zinnias and frequently planted them. If I remember correctly, they were one of the flowers that thrived and bloomed. Toward the end of her life, Mom had a stand of red zinnias. After she passed away, I found a jar of zinnia seeds on an old table where she kept plants and gardening things. On the top of the jar, was a piece of masking tape with my name. She must have picked the seed heads early in the Fall before she got sick. On a sad dreary day, I took those seeds home and planted them in my garden. Twice I gathered red zinnia seeds and replanted them the following Spring. Then because red zinnias made me sad, I quit gathering the seeds. Eight or nine years have passed.
This year when I selected cucumber seeds at the garden center, the pictures of zinnias on seed packets tugged at my heart. I purchased and planted a packet of a large multicolored variety. The bright colors made pretty summer bouquets for several family dinners. In September, I put some in a Mason Jar and tied bright ribbon around the jar for my grandson's third birthday party. My sister remarked on the bright flowers and we talked a minute about Mom. Earlier this week I picked another bouquet of zinnias. My daughter, Kate says the flowers look happy. She is right. These zinnias make me happy and my Mom would have loved them.