Saturday, February 17, 2018

Small Things

Early this morning I watched light come into the sky. The sun is visible from a slightly different point on the horizon than it was a month ago. The quality of light has also shifted. The early birds to the tube feeder were gold finches, with the sun on their gray/green breasts. Geese flew over the house. I recognized their calls before they came into view. No doubt they belong to the urban wild fowl that circulates among city ponds and creeks. They were not migrating sandhill cranes or snow geese but I am waiting for those ancient cries. 

Mornings at my desk, I watch the little birds at the seed and suet feeders. The last two weeks I've been watching this Downy Woodpecker. I know it is the same bird because the little black feather with white polka dots hangs askew from his back. Though the days are growing longer, February doesn't seem like a good time for molting. The feather blowing in the breeze reminds me of a loose tooth in the mouth of a seven year old. The bird just doesn't use a tongue or finger to worry the feather away.

I knit a hat and mittens for a child who needs them to keep warm. Some children don't have a Grammy to knit for them so occasionally I take up my needles to help out. Last night I worked on the first sleeve of the color block sweater. It is still a blob of gray and light blue, a little like a late winter sky.

Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday. He passed away seven years ago. Dad was strong willed and not the easiest guy to love. Alcohol was a demon in his life. However in the days before Driver's Education, he taught me how to drive. The first time I drove for my license, he stood on the curb waiting for my return to the county courthouse. He shook his head as I scraped his Pontiac against the bumper of a patrol car while pulling into a parking place. He didn't scold but remarked, "we need to practice parking." The following Sunday afternoon, we pulled in and out of parking spaces all over town. I passed the second driving test. Many evenings he came home from work complaining about lights on all over the house. "Turn off the lights. Money doesn't grow on trees." He took me down to the Norfolk Savings and Loan to open a savings account based on earnings from babysitting and my quarter a week allowance. After watching his widowed mother struggle to make ends meet, he helped both his daughters and sons obtain college educations. He loved pastries and the smell of birthday candles burning on a frosted cake. He was fond of his grandchildren. After Mom died, he learned how to wash a load of towels and make a pot of coffee. When I drove to see him in the nursing home, he thanked me for coming and shooed me out mid afternoon saying, "you need to be home before dark." As long as he was able, he stood and walked me to the door of his room. I plan to bake a sweet treat this weekend to remember him.

I hope your weekend is filled with the goodness of small things.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

This is a Winter Hat

Gentle snow fell on Monday and Tuesday. Today the sun is out creating a beautiful winter landscape. I may invest in some winter athletic shoes to make walking safe. Boots are so awkward for walking any distance. I'd love to be out walking this morning but I don't want to fall.

Though I am joining Kat and the Unravelers, my knitting projects haven't required any unraveling. I finished this hat late the other evening. The knitting with this DK yarn was lovely. As I came to the top, the hat looked so tall. I kept trying it on to make sure it wasn't going to be a cone head hat. Gathered up with needles at the top, the hat was quite a look over flannel pajamas. The texture creates a very warm hat. Even though it doesn't match my winter walking coat, I'll settle for warm. The snow won't be melting today and more is predicted for later this week. I should have cropped this photo but didn't want to enlarge the wrinkles in my face. Smile lines, let's think of them as smile lines. 

Last night I finished the body of my color block sweater. Something about round and round stockinette sweater knitting is perfect with a cup of tea on a winter evening. I am going to knit the neck band out of gray and then divide the remaining yarn for the sleeves. I hope to knit cuffs plus a little of the lower sleeves from one skein of cream colored yarn. All of the yarn is Chickadee (sport weight) from Quince and Co. I knit a panel of ribbing down the side and then finished with a split hem because I could. I have tried the sweater on several times and it fits.

As for reading/listening, I am listening to Hidden Figures, the story of the African American women mathematicians and scientists who contributed so much to World War II aviation and the space program. The narrator is excellent. Shetterly writes well and the story is fascinating. I am enjoying the details about the strong group of bright intelligent women. I think novels and nonfiction works would provide great discussions in history classes. I finished reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. My sister gave me this book as a Christmas gift and I loved it. The small book is full of good nature writing with a little personal reflection on illness. The small soft pencil half-tone drawings of snails along the edges of the pages are charming. As my sister said, "it is a book about patience."

Stay warm and enjoy the rest of the week.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

These January Days

Whether you place a chair near a sunny window or take the book with you into a warm bed, these January days are meant for reading. I recently finished Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal by Linda M. Hasselstrom. This writer is at her best when describing the seasons, grasses, animals, and other plants in western South Dakota. The journal format sets off Hasselstrom's recollections of daily and seasonal life on her ranch. The book includes an examination of the family relationships that have shaped her life on this piece of land. She doesn't hesitate to look deeply into family journals and records, weaving family and landscape into a good story for a winter day.

I continue knitting on the gray sweater. This evening I will split the body from the sleeves on this top-down raglan. I need to think about how and where I will add the next block of color. This project reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books my children read while growing up. Now and then I need a little knitting diversion from rounds of gray stockinette so I cast on a hat. I ordered a skein of the Quince and Co. Phoebe yarn when it was first available to try in a small project. Better a late try than never. The yarn spun from 100% American Merino wool has good stitch definition. It has a lovely soft hand and would make a good cabled sweater, mittens, or a hat. 

Earlier this week we had a snowstorm. We were on the edge of the storm so only a few inches of snow fell but the wind blustered most of the day. Today's sun and warmth will melt most of the snow. I will be out walking this afternoon. I hope wherever you are you have a good book at the ready. Enjoy these January days. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Welcome to the Flock

The sun is shining and the temperatures are going to climb out of single digits this afternoon. Hooray. It will be nice to walk further than to the mail box and around the cul-de-sac. I am sitting in the corner of the love seat with my feet in a patch of warm sunshine and a cup of tea on the side table while I savor these mittens. They were a Christmas gift from my daughter. Like all knitted gifts, they are a love story.

One holiday break during my daughter's college years, I taught her to knit. Then she became a graduate student in physical therapy and married. She had little time for knitting. Eight years ago, when she was pregnant with her first son, she knit two toys, an elephant and a bunny. They were not uncomplicated projects. She finished the elephant but the bunny was missing one ear. Now she is a mother of three and little Jonah at 22 months found the bunny. He kept bringing it to her saying, "Mama, fix it." So in November when she came to teach for a weekend, she brought the bunny. Together we struggled over picking up the stitches. The instructions are designed to create a pleat in the ear. I helped her but we, mostly me, picked them up backwards so the ears are not symmetrical. Jonah doesn't care, he just wanted a bunny with two ears. She knit the ear. She watched You-tube videos while she made increases. She sat beside me and I showed her how to kitchener the top together.

Since she had nothing to knit on the plane ride home, I gave her a pair of needles, a ball of washcloth yarn, and a pattern. She wanted to knit some two color mittens like the ones my sister had made for her. I tried not to squeal with delight that she was interested in and had time for knitting. We talked about yarn and she ordered some before she left. I helped her just a little with the pattern instructions. Her first pair of color work mittens came in our Christmas package as one of my gifts. They arrived with a poem she wrote about knitting them. They fit, are extremely warm and so pretty. I was so touched by this gift. After she finished them, she ordered yarn for another pair. A good friend has asked her for a cowl so she has a project in her queue. She is a dear daughter and I am delighted to share knitting with her.

Meanwhile in Texas, my daughter-in-law made nine Christmas stockings on a knitting loom. She created the designs for these stockings. All the family members, including the dogs, have new matching stockings. Jacque has big heart and she is a wonderful daughter-in-law. She has driven me to several yarn shops in Fort Worth during our visits and patiently waited while I wandered around those stores. She crochets and is now creating designs for t-shirts. Two new knitters in one month! To them I say, "Welcome to the flock." May your fiber endeavors bring you joy, peace, and comfort.

As for me, I continue with my sweater - so far, so good. I should put the stitches on waste yarn and try it on. There are a few imperfections in the dye on this skein. I could have cut them out but decided to embrace what they bring to the sweater. There are plenty of other things to worry about in this world. I am listening to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Some sources call it one of the first feminist novels. It is interesting that after Anne's death, her sister Charlotte prevented this story, a woman who eventually leaves an abusive mate, from being republished. I am reading a book of poetry, Rock, Tree, Bird, a gift from my knitting sister. It also came with a pair of beautiful color work mittens. The book is written by Nebraska's State Poet, Twyla Hansen. Hansen worked as a professional horticulturist and writes with a strong respect for the environment and her agricultural background. The poems are lovely to read on a winter or any other day. They are one antidote to the constant font of troubling news in our country. 

So as I join Kat and the Unravelers today, I wish you good knitting, good reading, and time to enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Knitting Notes

We are back to cold temperatures although we missed the heart of the storm that arrived in the wee hours of this morning. The wind roared and temperatures plummeted from yesterday's high of 50 degrees to 11 degrees at daybreak. If we have an inch of new snow I'd be surprised. I think quite a bit of it blew away. 

I finished the Contrail Shawl right before Christmas. It is a generous sized shawl and good for wrapping up in on these cold days. I enjoyed knitting the pattern and the yarn. I finished hat and mitten sets for our Connecticut grandsons after the New Year. They fit - mostly. The finished hat for the youngest looked small so I unraveled the crown and added another inch to the body of the hat. I think that inch makes it wearable for him this winter. Whew! Micah's wild and crazy hat is a little bit big so maybe he will get another year's wear out of it.  I'll exercise a grandmother's privilege and post a photo of them.

On New Year's Day, I began swatching for a sweater from some leftover yarn. I don't have enough in any color to make a pullover for myself but do have three colors in enough total yardage. (Very brief Rav notes here) I could have striped the yarn but decided to make a colorblock sweater. I intend to wear this sweater for everyday and am thinking of it as an experiment. At least that is what I am telling myself. Five times, I cast on and knit a few inches. Each time I came closer to a raglan line with a ribbed design and increases without big holes. I knew this would be a process and thought of it as swatching. The yarn held up beautifully to repeated ripping and knitting. I cast on one more time and knit along until I made a mistake in one of the increases. I took out three or four rows stitch by stitch because when I pulled it all of the needles I couldn't quite get the increased stitches back on correctly. Now the knitting is smooth sailing and I may need another more complex project to break up the stockinette stitching. 

Today I am going through my yarn stash and knitting bags in an attempt to make some order. My knitting bags are a jumble of needles, patterns, and yarn both leftover and wound for projects not yet begun. I am not making any elaborate goals. In keeping with "light" as my guide word, I am hoping to shed some light onto the yarn and be inspired by this stash. 

I meant to write a post yesterday in order to link with Kat and the Unravelers. Perhaps I need to write on Tuesday so I can publish on Wednesday. So it goes. Enjoy these deep winter days.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

Sunlight streams from the eastern sky creating shadows on the deck and inside the house. Juncos, finches, chickadees, downy woodpecker, a male cardinal (where is his mate?) a pair of bluejays and a red-bellied woodpecker come to the feeders and yard. The red-bellied woodpecker is a rare sighting here. I watched him pick up a safflower seed and drill it into the birch trunk until the shell opened. I am not sure how the birds keep from freezing in the sub-zero temperatures. They surely need plenty of fuel to keep warm and fly back to safe quarters.

The sum of the last few days includes frigid wind chill outdoors and after-Christmas cleaning indoors. I like to start the New Year with a clean house. I have almost completed the third hat/mitten set for our Connecticut grandsons. They are easy knits except for the sizing. I made them to go with their winter coats and hope they will fit someone. This all started when Micah announced he wanted to wear a different hat every day. He likes them wild and crazy so I made him a hat from variegated yarn. And yes, those are hand-knitted socks on my feet at the bottom of the photo. Wool is a necessity these days.

Instead of New Year's resolutions, I choose a word/ theme for the year. The last few months, the refrain from "Anthem" (lyrics/poem) by Leonard Cohen kept coming to mind.

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

So today I choose "light." The word has Germanic, Indo-European, Latin, and Greek roots with many derivations. For example, the Old English leoht, leah, and then lea is a pasture or meadow drenched in light. Luxury and deluxe from luster are American English derivatives. In the English language, "light" may be used as an adjective, noun, transitive, or as an intransitive verb. We can live lightly, a derivation used as an adverb. There are the scientific and spiritual definitions for the word. Light in the sky provides endless beauty. Light allows us to see color. Light creates shadows. All of this keeps my mind busy on bitterly cold days and for the coming seasons.  Slowly, the light returns.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 21, 2017

The day is very gray here in Lincoln. The air is cold and the sky hangs heavy with moisture as bare tree tops sway with the wind. Our area has been very dry so rain turning to snow is welcome.

Today is the Winter Solstice, the day the ancients created to coax the return of the sun. It is also a day to knit for peace. As rain begins to fall, I will make another cup of tea and knit mittens for my grandsons. Many are working for peace and common good because all children deserve better. In spite of the new tax law, the natural world cycles toward the light. 

Many mornings I watch the birds outside my window. Today I send this little poem of mine to you. Thank you for reading.  Peace.

December Finch

The little house finch faces the north wind
curling her toes around the lip of the feeder.

She folds her wings into a shawl as fine
as Shetland Lace. The wind blows.

How strong the tiny heart that beats in
the exquisite breast of brown and cream.

The feeder bobs in the breeze. She extends
her neck, chooses a seed, cracks it open.

Breeze ruffles her downy feathers
as she mends the day with her grace.

copyright Jane Wolfe, December 2017