Sunday, May 26, 2013

Empty Basket

Carving out writing time and space is challenging. In the late 1990's, I set up an old computer on a table in our basement. I knit a lace shawl and wore it to signal to my family I was writing and wanted to be interrupted only in the case of blood injuries or similar catastrophes. When my daughter went to graduate school, I claimed her room as my own. I pushed her desk under a window, piled files on a twin bed, and began searching for a story about my great grandmother Charlotte. In 2011, I moved a smaller more comfortable desk belonging to another great grandmother, Lucy, into the room. I draped the shawl over my chair and placed an empty basket inside the door as a place to drop off "to do" lists and school worries. Last summer, my dear husband and I moved everything out of the room, ripped up old carpet and had new flooring installed. After he repainted and set up the twin bed in the basement, I stored knitting supplies in the closet, reorganized the bookshelf, and set up my writing space. I hung a few pieces of handwork done by my sister, mother, grandmother, and myself on the wall.  Finally, as Virginia Woolf wrote, I had a "room of my own."

For twenty nine years, I have arranged my family, writing, knitting, quilting, cooking, housekeeping, and vacations around a school calendar.  In 1973, the first year Nebraska was required to hire certified teachers for significantly disabled children, I graduated and was hired to teach children with mental disabilities. Four of the six of us hired for the program at Arnold School were new graduates. Together we learned as much as the children. In 1977, I earned a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Kansas. Once again, I was one of the first in the state to be certified in a new speciality.  Later that year I married. In 1980, I became a mother and stayed home for eight years.  Since 1988, I have worked as an itinerant Early Childhood Special Education teacher in homes and community settings where I supported parents and caregivers of preschool children with developmental delays. Over and over I have watched as children with challenges learn to eat, walk, talk, and play. Teaching allowed me to be home with my children on most of their vacation days and the changing seasons of a school calendar suited me. This week marked the end of my last official school year as a public school teacher. After working ten days in June, I'll officially retire. I am proud to have been a public school teacher. Like many others, I worked hard and gave my best effort. I made a difference in the lives of many children and their families. 

Before you ask, let me say I don't know what I will being doing every day of the coming years.  Instead, I am going to be. Right now, I am watching the morning light reflected off the birch bark as a robin feeds her young. I want to savor the seasons with my family, blow bubbles with my grandchildren, eat dinner with my husband, study the sunset, and read deeply. I have a 401K of lovely yarn, mostly blues but some reds, lavenders, and greens. On weekday mornings, I plan to make a pot of coffee and finish the story about my great grandmother Charlotte. I have a room of my own and the basket is empty.   




Sunday, May 5, 2013

Birds of a Feather

Spring weather has been cool with rain and even snow into late April and early May. The temperatures are too cool for planting tomatoes but good for knitting.  I finished this baby sweater and am knitting a hat to match.

I also cast on Piper's Journey, a crescent shawl with a simple border attached to a body of garter stitch.  I am knitting it in sport weight "Chickadee" yarn by Quince and Company. The yarn is 100% wool and has a lovely hand. 
Quince and Company, located in Maine, spins and dyes American wool and linen "sourced from overseas earth friendly suppliers" in a restored mill. Although they use minimal recyclable packaging, ink, and paper in products, their design aesthetic is sophisticated and beautiful. Cleverly, they named yarn lines after birds: chickadee, finch, tern, sparrow, lark, and owl.  For all of these reasons, I think their yarn company is worth supporting.

In other Spring aviary news, a robin is working on a nest in the clump birch outside my window. She is building on the southeast side of the tree where a strong limb meets one of the tree trunks.The tree will shelter her nest from the north and west wind while the house will protect it from the south.  This morning a pair of young cardinals call to each other and a chickadee searches for insects in the bark. A bluejay flew in to inspect the nest and a starling contributed one twig. Maybe this nest is a community building project. I'll be interested to see if the robin can maintain her claim on the nest.

                                                                                                                                                                 Meanwhile, a group of starlings continues to tut- tut on the ground underneath the tree. They keep their beady eyes on the small space in front of them, pecking at the ground for no good reason and then occasionally gobbling up earthworms before glancing around to see if their neighbor needs food.  Following each other in shiny black suits, they remind me of groups of U.S. Senators sticking together as they totter around opening and closing their throats in self-importance. In the evening the starlings roost together in the birch, cackling noisily and soiling the ground below them. Perhaps the robin's nest, just under another limb, is protected from the starlings' mess. I wish the American robin the best of luck as she attempts to build a home and rear a family during this precarious Spring.