Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poetry Month


April is a good month for poetry. The rhythm in a poem lulls a reader to peace one moment and alerts her to take notice at another. Here we are in April when the rhythm of the season is easily noticed. The weekend snow melts under Monday's sun. The process of freezing and thawing breaks down the hard covering on wild seeds, allowing them to germinate. I am trying to remember that as I get impatient for warmer days.

Poetry originated in the oral tradition before literacy. Early poems and ballads were sung or chanted as a way to remember history, story, and law. They were also offered as prayer and hymn. No wonder rhythm is essential to a poem. Iambic pentameter, a common metrical form in poetry, matches the rhythm of breath. It was probably the longest line an early poet could recite without pausing for breath. I don't think that is coincidence.

I have been rereading poems by William Stafford. He was born in Hutchinson, Kansas and lived in the northwest US much of his adult life. During World War Two, he was a conscientious objector and worked in the civilian public service camps. Stafford is a plain spoken poet with a beautiful sometimes wry sense of metaphor. I hope you read and find a new favorite poem this month.

As far as knitting, yesterday was a day of unraveling. The scrap shawl is back on the needles and I am reknitting the lace border with a small ball of yarn that looks like ramen noodles. The baby sweater is blocking. I am looking for some new projects with an easy knitting rhythm. Linking to Kat the Unravelers this week.

Today I offer one of my poems. I wrote this several years ago as part of a group of poems about containers.


Ordinary Basket

Outside my window, mama robin builds  
a nest of grass and twigs. Working like
ancients, she weaves plant fibers 
into a basket to shelter her babes.

Soon offspring are squawking for food. Days
later she pushes them out, like all women who fill
and empty baskets with ratty socks, ripe apples,
stray buttons, or fresh bread for grieving friends.

Baskets, carefully crafted, carried over arms, mudded
into trees, balanced on heads, or slung across shoulders.
Baskets, heavy and light, older than cloth,
weaving a record of a woman’s ordinary day.

(Copyright, 2015 Jane A. Wolfe)







Thursday, April 12, 2018

Color

Color slowly returns to the outdoors. Patches of our yard are quite green. Yesterday I walked past a row of lilac bushes and noticed the tips of green leaves just visible from buds. The goldfinches have molted from silvery green to bright yellow. Ever so slightly we tip toward warmer days. Much as I enjoy wearing my hand knits, walking without a cowl or scarf wrapped around my neck is freeing.

Lavender is the color of my knitting these days. The Lavender Baby Sweater is knitting up well. A different pattern and a comfortable needle size made the difference. This free pattern is a recipe. The designer doesn't specify body or sleeve lengths. Instructions for the hem read like an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern - finish with the slipped stitch pattern and garter hem as at the top of the yoke. I have knit this sweater twice before and had good results. I made notes but can't find them. Sticky notes on pages of paper patterns have a way of floating away. I plan to tuck a small paperback blank journal into my knitting corner and then use it. Today's sky is hazy from the prairie burn in Kansas so the color is washing out in this photo. 


I also blocked and wove in the ends on this third shawl of scraps. This is my shawl recipe for a boomerang shawl. When I need a peaceful garter stitch knit, I gather up leftovers from fingering weight yarn and stripe them together. I use the shape from the Nurmilintu Shawl. There are other boomerang shawl recipes on Ravelry and any would work. I usually add a few eyelet rows as much for knitting interest as for design. For this particular shawl, I knit the lace border from the Nurmilintu Shawl. The garter stitch was great while my eye healed. I should have waited for new glasses before knitting the border. I plan to rip out the border and reknit it for the third time. I thought I could live with the wonky lace but cannot. I love the symmetry of lace. It's all knitting and will only take a couple of evenings.

I hope your projects are treating you well. As soon as the smoky air blows away, I am ready to poke around in my garden and perennial flower beds. I am looking for green.




Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Redux: Knitting and a Book


Last week I finished a second pair of About Town Mitts. The simple classic texture was fun to knit and doesn't take a full skein of yarn. I'll likely knit them again. The pair on the right was knit with sport weight. I modified the red and blue pair to knit them from worsted scraps. The blue yarn is Mountain Colors Goat, a yarn I have used to make mittens. The deep colors are a joy to work with in the fall and winter. I lost the label from the red yarn long ago but it also has some mohair content. The two yarns worked well together in this project. They are going in the gift/donation basket. Since finishing the mitts, I picked up my new glasses (hooray for sharp precise vision!) and cast on a baby sweater. Alas I have done some unraveling. Such is knitting life.

I bought this pale lavender baby yarn at an after Christmas sale. I cast on the Louise Cardigan but could not knit the yarn to gauge. I tried twice, with two different sized needles. The sweater body was too large. Sometimes I just knit a baby sweater with my preferred gauge but thought the proportions of this sweater would be wonky. I pulled the second set of 169 stitches off the needle, reclaimed the yarn, and cast on the Seamless Yoked (Baby) Sweater. I've knit this pattern previously. Wish me luck. 


We are traveling to New England next month so I thought I'd read something by women writers from the area. Earlier I read How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. Nelson was the Poet Laureate of Connecticut, 2001 - 2006. I am in search of poetry by a New Hampshire poet, Patricia Fargnoli. This week I am rereading The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett. Jewett's work is a little idyllic but still describes the Maine countryside and inhabitants in the mid to late 1800s. When I reread a book, I'm not in a hurry to discover the ending. I read more slowly noticing new details (or in this case any details) and savoring words, sentences, and paragraphs. Jewett was a friend of Willa Cather's so that makes her writing interesting to me. Jewett, like Cather, writes about ordinary people and the places they live. The places are as integral to the story as the characters. I'm enjoying the old fashion-ness of the story.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers. Jump on over for reading and knitting inspiration. 

Today the sun has come out and the temps are slowly inching upwards. I think I'll take a walk before it snows again on Friday. I'd rather pass on the winter redux. Ah - Spring. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spring


Welcome to Spring in Nebraska. Chilly rain one day and sunshine the next. Earlier this morning, the sky was bright and blue and now it has clouded over. Cooler weather and precipitation, dare I mention a few snowflakes, are forecast for tomorrow. 

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of a sunny day to drive out to the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska to view the sandhill crane migration. The Platte, a braided river that meanders around sandbars and shifting islands carries snow melt from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River. The short stretch near Kearney hosts the annual stopover of these birds. Between mid-March and early April, between 400,000 to 500,000 cranes feed in nearby fields and settle on the river at night. The average wingspan of an adult is between 5.5 to 7.5 feet. 


We arrived mid afternoon, found a safe place to park on a county road, and watched the birds. Now and then they spread their long wings to move about but generally seemed content feeding on leftover corn under a warm sun. After an early dinner in town, we drove back to the State Recreation Area and walked out on a pedestrian bridge that spans the river.
  

Standing on that bridge at sunset is magic. During the day, the birds call softly to each other in the fields but as the sun falls lower in the sky they call more frequently. Before the birds are visible from the bridge, their swelling chorus fill the air. Soon a few lone birds and then small groups begin to fly toward the river. And then ribbons of birds appear overhead, flying up and down the river in search of safe place to rest. They don't land near the bridge because too many of us are standing there with cameras and binoculars. Even so, their ancient music is the beginning of Spring. 


Happy Spring, Happy Easter, Happy Passover.
Linking with Kat and the Unravelers

 

   

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hope

March is Women's History Month. I was in college (1969-1973) when my Mom discovered women's history. It was a heady time. She sent my sister and I subscriptions to Ms. Magazine. She was fascinated by the Suffragettes, especially those with ties to Nebraska and Iowa. I still have a news clipping I found in one of her books with a list of these women. She often recommended books written by women, some more widely known than others. She introduced me to Mari Sandoz, a Nebraska author. She gave me books published by small presses written by and about women in the west. Many of them remain on my bookshelf today. Mom was the best as a mother, friend, encourager, life-long learner, registered nurse, and much more.

This morning before writing, I decided to learn a little more about Women's History Month. In 1987, the Women's History Project petitioned Congress to designate March as Women's History Month. Each year Women's History Month has a theme. The 2018 theme is "Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women." At this time there is an effort to raise money to build a Women's History Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Currently more women than ever are running for public office in the United States. And so the effort to represent women continues. As Emily Dickinson wrote, "Hope is a thing with feathers."

Spring's arrival is slow. In the wee hours of the new season, a flurry of wet snow fell. The goldfinches sport the first hint of their brillant summer yellow. Daffodils in my yard are up about three inches and the iris spears are green. I poked the compost for just a whiff of rich soil. The sandhill cranes are feeding along the Platte River in Nebraska.

My knitting has turned to small simple projects. I have the proverbial pair of socks on the needles. On a recent gray day, I cast on fingerless mitts in River, my favorite color in this yarn. Tomorrow I see the ophthalmologist for a new glasses prescription. When the glasses arrive in seven to ten days, I will be able to read with ease. I am grateful the cataracts in both my eyes have been successfully removed and replaced with new lenses. Literally, the possibility exists for seeing the world through new eyes.

Joining Kat and others for Wednesdays Unraveled.





Thursday, March 15, 2018

Familiar Lessons


Yesterday we had a taste of Spring. The day was warm enough to walk in shirt sleeves and so I did. Earlier this week, we attended the funeral of an acquaintance who died suddenly. I decided grocery shopping could wait ninety minutes. At the edge of town, I walked on a trail and sat on a bench facing the sun. Later I carried my knitting to the deck. The sun was lower in the sky as the robins and finches sang to each other. I'm sure the dust continued to accumulate in the house but the warm day was too fine not to be outdoors.

On the deck, I bound off the Kindness Shawl. It was a well fought game of yarn chicken. I knew I might not have enough to finish the bind off but decided to try. I ran short so I cut the tails from the cast on and one other place where I had removed a knot in the skein. I used those two little pieces to finish. I confess I tied knots after pulling the ends to the back. That corner is not going to win any prizes but I did finish the shawl without tinking back two long rows. I think I won the game but a sudsy bath and blocking will tell the story. If the ends unravel, I will not.

This shawl will be a donation or a gift.  I am not crazy about the tonal variations and color in this yarn. Both looked better to me in the skein than in the shawl. The yarn has a nice hand and the pattern is easy to follow. It just doesn't seem to be a good match for me. Perhaps someone else will enjoy it. The lesson here is not to persevere when a little voice in my head raises questions. How many times do I need to be reminded that not all projects need to be finished? The yarn would have made great socks.

Today the sky is partly cloudy and the day is not as warm. No matter, my Texas grandson and his mother are in town and we are meeting them for pizza this evening. That will be sunshine enough for this day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Ready for Spring


Welcome March, the month of windy mercurial weather, winter one day and spring the next. Today looks more like winter with the latest skiff of snow on the ground. The color block sweater is finished. I will enjoy wearing the sweater into the early Spring. Except for the cuffs, I used yarn leftover from two projects so my stash is a tad bit lighter. You know you are a knitter when you order yarn for a project that was supposed to be knit from leftover yarn.


After we photographed the sweater, I looked down at my feet. You know you are a knitter when you wear out one of a pair of hand knit socks but save the other to wear with another sock missing its mate. The lavender sock has been in my drawer since last winter waiting for a mismatched mate.


While the sweater dried, I knit on this shawl from another skein of yarn buried in the stash. It feels good to knit with yarn and patterns on hand. I picked the color to remind me of the spring flowers that will soon push up from the ground.


I am listening to Personal History by Katherine Graham. Graham became the publisher of The Washington Post after her husband's death. She experiences many privileges from being born to a wealthy parents. However she also experienced some anti-Semitism due to her Jewish heritage through her father. My Dad was a Circulation Manager of a newspaper and my brothers continue to work in the field so I am interested in the autobiography from the standpoint of newspaper history as well as the education and professional life of this strong woman. 

I am reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, a light hearted, feel good literary romp set in a small town in Iowa. It is good company for recovery from cataract surgery late last week. This is my second eye to be repaired and the procedure went well. I plan to have new glasses in time for Spring travel. 

Joining Kat and the Unravelers. What are you knitting and reading this week?