Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Midwinter

Now we settle into winter. Sunday, on a cold short walk, I noticed a tree with slight nodules that presage spring buds. What a wonder for a January day. Darkness draws us indoors while the days gain minutes of daylight. Yesterday, snow fell on snow. I can't remember the last time that happened in Lincoln. Snowfall shushed our comings and goings. I sorted through photographs for a photo book for Jonah. Now that he is three, I have a gallery from which to choose. I've only just begun that process.

Sunrise from our deck

I also knitted on this shawl and listened to The Murder of Mary Russell. Laurie King spins stories of Sherlock Holmes married in later life to an American, Mary Russell. Russell, a scholar, is front and center in the detective work. She often has her nose in a book and sometimes takes refuge in a manor house library. This book tells the backstory of Mrs. Hudson who works as Holmes and Russell's housekeeper. For Conan Doyle readers, Clara Hudson was Holmes' former landlady on Baker Street. I can't recall that her character was developed much beyond brewing tea and tidying up after Holmes and Watson. In this story, King draws literary references from Dickens' work and weaves them into the story. A young Clara, a.k.a. Clarissa, and her protege reread several Dickens' stories.
 
The Minimalist Shawl

All of this makes me think about rereading books from my shelves. I confess I write notes in the margins and/or bracket appealing words/sentences. Rereading a book, I come on those marks and compare them to what intrigues me a second time. Many times I catch something I missed during the first rapid read of good story. Every now and then I decide a book has outlived its space on the shelf and find it another home.

Last week after Mary Oliver died, I pulled several of her books off my shelf and read from them. These I have read more than once. Pages are loose in House of Light. Although Oliver is known for wonderful accessible poetry, her prose is just as lovely and peaceful. Currently, I have Upstream on my nightstand. Winter Hours is my favorite among her prose. In a 2015 On Being interview, Oliver remarked that "a poem is a gift for anybody and everybody." What a gift she gave to those of us who read and reread her work.

Truroa Mitts

I finished my Christmas socks, early for next year. I am ready to cast on the second fingerless mitt. I'll knit the second hand and then do the thumbs one after another, increasing the likelihood they will be the same length. Since I seem to carry around a sock project, I cast on another pair. Although a solid color would better show the texture, the bright blues and greens are just the color for gray days. I don't often participate in the Ravelery knit alongs but the designer, Blue Peninsula is hosting a knit-along. I had this pattern in mind for the next pair so here I go. I will finish when I finish though.

Couplet Sock

It is Wednesday, the day to see what Kat and the Unravelers are knitting and reading. Stay warm and savor these winter days.
 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lessons from the Stash

A wet snow began falling on Friday evening. Snow fell steadily, without any wind, until early afternoon on Saturday. Generally we have wind on the Great Plains. I can't remember the last time 6.5 inches of wet snow fell and stayed on the trees for more than a day. My book group met that Friday. Although we were small in numbers we had a lovely warm evening. Good friends, good food, hot tea, wine, and a lively discussion about The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Driving home in a snow fall was magical. I love the quiet that comes from a blanket of snow. I took a long walk on Sunday under snowy arches and then back at home I aired my stash of yarn. I have a grocery bag of odd skeins and leftovers for donation. I hope to find a school group that welcomes yarn. If not I'll give it to the Goodwill.

Moving yarn along to a new home is a good thing. Still I weed gently because I have adequate storage space. Now days I buy yarn for a project, say mitts, shawl, hat, or a baby garment of some description. I do not to buy a sweater quantity without a specific pattern in hand. This year I cleared out the last of a yarn I bought with no sweater in mind. I kept enough for a pair of mittens and a hat but if I cast on with the yarn and don't enjoy the project, those last three skeins will go to a new home. I aim to knit only what I enjoy. Life is short and I am too old to knit what can or should be knitted. Not surprisingly, I have plenty of nice yarn in unopened skeins. I plan to choose my favorites instead of saving them until I knit up older odds and ends.


Three ongoing works in progress are right for me. I like to have a carry-around project for waiting rooms and social knitting, a zen project for knitting when I am too tired to think, and one that requires a little more attention. My socks are almost finished and the shawl is too big to carry around. This week I cast on a pair of mitts from a book on my shelf, Drop-Dead Easy Knits. It is a pattern I've always wanted to knit and the yarn, from my local yarn shop, has a soft hand.

If you are looking for books about the north woods for children, you might flip though books by Betsy Bowen. She writes and creates illustrations with beautiful wood-cuts. Her studio is located in Grand Marais, Minnesota on the shore Lake Superior. If you ever find yourself in Grand Marais (I hope in the summer or early fall) visit her studio. It is wonderful. I just began listening to The Library Book By Susan Orlean. The nonfiction work is a love song to public libraries that I want to finish. The narrator's (author) voice is not to my liking so I am now on the hold list for a hard copy. In the meantime, I finishing Unsheltered. I read the last two chapters to learn the ending and then decided to read the middle. There are some passages of good writing and I find the middle better reading than the beginning.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers.

Stay well. The walks are clear so I am off on another winter walk. I wish you warm and cozy winter days.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Fresh Start


Mild January days make for good walking weather and gorgeous sunsets. I miss the snow cover but am happy not to be slipping and sliding along. Yesterday I put away the last remnants of Christmas. The Christmas mugs went to the top shelf and my children's Christmas books are back in their storage bin. This year Jonah and I read The Night Before Christmas over and over. I tucked the old (really old - 1949) Golden Book copy from my husband's childhood into the book basket that sits by the rocker year round. No matter the date, the grands get to request their favorites. The winter picture books are out on the coffee table, available for reading. 

Monday I decluttered and dusted my study. The room accumulates Christmas gifts along with gift bags, paper, tags, and mailing supplies. In one corner, I sorted out a basket of knitting stuff: odds and ends of yarn, patterns and needles that might be or have been used and need to be put away, tape measures, and several little notions bags with extras. I also cleaned out desk drawers, a small cupboard of office supplies, and mopped the floor. Walking into a clean, well organized space this week feels so nice. Now to move on to the yarn stash and the kitchen desk. The new year lends itself to fresh starts.

I unraveled the Archer sweater. The yarn at gauge and pattern were not a good combination and I wasn't enjoying the project. I swatched with three different yarns before choosing Finch by Quince and Co. Generally I swatch until I create a fabric I like and then modify the pattern to fit my gauge. If Archer had a more conventional construction, I'd do that. Instead I am dreaming up a Spring cardigan with the yarn. In the meantime, I finished the first sock and cast on the second. Rows on the Minimalist Shawl grow longer. This all makes good knitting for January.

I am reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Her work has been among my favorites but this novel is not her best writing. It feels heavy and confrontational. During the first third of the book, the constant switch between stories is jarring. Maybe they will come together later. I wonder if Kingsolver's social statements would have been better written as essays or nonfiction.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers. Here is to a fresh start for the New Year. 




Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wonder and Possibility

Happy New Year! Yesterday morning while the sun rose, I jotted notes for a blog post and then met friends for breakfast. When I returned, my computer unraveled. I suppose five years is a good run for a laptop but I want mine to last longer. This morning the machine is slow and cranky. Technology is great when it works and frustrating when it doesn't.

When I talked to the Connecticut crew on New Year's Day, Emmet read me his list of things to do in 2019. His Mom told him "nothing was off the table" so he dreams of seeing the inside of the Statue of Liberty, The Museum of Natural History in NYC, attending a baseball game, and visiting his favorite people, including my husband and I. He made my day. I like a dreamer of possibilities. 

Instead of goals or resolutions, I choose a word to ponder through the year. Words from the past continue to inform my life in a way that goals or resolutions do not. "Light," my 2018 word will hold an extra special place in my heart. Little Norah Jane arrived in September. Her name derives in part from a Hebrew word meaning light. I chose that word before I even knew she existed. Watching her grow and change is a lesson in light and wonder.


Last week, I gathered my notes about "light." I began with scientific definitions and ended with spiritual meanings. Light is a physical science concept concerning electromagnetic radiation and wave length. Don't ask me what that means because I can't tell you without more research. Light makes color and vision possible. Very bright intense light can cause fire. Quakers believe light is a divine presence in all of us. One can shine a light, be a light, and/or reflect the light of others.

This year I am off on a journey of "wonder." Wonder originated from the Old English word, wundrian, meaning "to be affected with astonishment." The word also has roots in Old High German, Middle High German, Old Dutch, Old Saxon, and Old Frisian. I love the idea that many ancient people used a word to express a sense of astonishment. And so in 2019, I will wonder about possibilities.   

Although my computer unraveled, my knitting did not. I continue to work on both the Christmas socks and the shawl. The shawl is a peaceful knit for evenings on the couch. I did get the Archer sweater cast on but haven't much knitting to show. I also knit my son-in-law a pair of fingerless mitts for his January birthday. I hope they fit as I guessed on size. Eventually when each photo doesn't take five minutes (or more) to download and transfer, I'll make a Ravelry project page. I used the Tin Can Knits, "The World's Simplest Mitten Pattern" modifying them to be fingerless. 


I finished reading The Hello Girls, a very interesting story about the Signal Corps telephone operators in France during WW1. The author includes the history of Women's Suffrage as a related story. She ends with the sixty year struggle of these women to be recognized as veterans of the U.S. Army. Eventually after most died, a hearty few found a compassionate attorney who filed a law suit. Together they achieved the recognition and benefits they had earned. I also read our book group January selection, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I look forward to discussing the life of the main character, a Chinese woman whose family picked tea, and the baby girl she left at an orphanage for adoption. See's first line, "No coincidence, no story," uttered by the mother of the main character warns the reader that the story will be quite neat and tidy.

I am currently reading my Christmas book, So Far So Good, the last book of poetry Ursula K. LeGuin published.  She sent the revised manuscript to the copy editor on January 15, 2018 and died on January 22, 2018. Many poems are set in California area where she lived and most are about "extreme old age." They are beautiful and poignant.

A day late but still linking to Kat and the Unravelers. Click on over to read about some interesting reading and knitting.   

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Holiday Knitting

Cold rain blew in this morning. The skies are very gray and the outside air was damp when I filled the bird feeder. My husband and I had a quiet Christmas. We celebrated Christmas Eve with his family and then spent yesterday together. Technology allowed my three siblings and I to exchange greetings. We also had some Face Time and photos from our children.  Everyone is well and happy. No one is trying to get home in inclement weather and for that I am thankful. Yesterday, Lance and I took a long afternoon walk on a trail near Wilderness Park. If we had walked at sunset, we might have seen a great horned owl. Another walk for another day.

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I'll write about knitting and reading. Over the weekend, I unraveled my Christmas sock back to the ribbing. After completing the gusset and some of the foot, I noticed the broken rib pattern interrupted the patterning in the yarn. If I had looked at the pattern photo that came with the yarn, I'd have knit a plain stockinette sock. Ribbed socks fit me better so they have become my vanilla sock pattern. Haste just made more time to knit with the joyful yarn. Christmas Eve day, I started over. It wasn't quite a Christmas Eve cast on but what the heck. We had the tree lights on and I had a cup of tea and cookie beside me on the end table. It is all knitting, right?   

Since the fridge is full of leftovers and cookies, I hope to cast on an Archer sweater today. The yarn has been properly swatched. Weeks ago, while knitting for Christmas, I wound the first skein. The yoke begins with an unusual construction so I've been waiting for some uninterrupted daylight hours. This afternoon will be perfect for a cup of tea and this project. My goal is to begin without errors. Wish me luck. Once the sweater is definitely a go, I'll make a project page on Ravelery. 


I am reading The Hello Girls, a nonfiction work about the young women who served as telephone operators for the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War One. The information could have been better edited but the story coinciding with women's suffrage is fascinating. After the war, a few of the women spent years trying to receive the benefits accorded to men who served in the war. I am also enjoying a Christmas gift from a good friend, American Journal: Fifty Poems For Our Time, edited and introduced by Tracy K. Smith. Smith, the 22nd Poet Laureate of the U.S. is an elegant poet in her own right. This collection includes work of poets from all walks of American life. Smith writes in her introduction, "This is why I love poems: they require me to sit still, listen deeply, and imagine putting myself in someone else's unfamiliar shoes. The world I return to when the poem is over seems fuller and more comprehensible as a result." Smith was interviewed earlier this year by Krista Tippett on"On Being." The interview is worth a listen. Smith has much to teach us.

Stay warm and dry. Enjoy this week between Christmas and New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Gentle Season

The Winter Solstice approaches. Since the snow and ice have melted, I walk later in the day, often around 4:30 p.m. As the sun sets, the sky changes colors and holiday lights come on around the neighborhood. The gentle shift between light and dark is magical.



Late Autumn*

November's end and from bare limbs
small birds keep me company.
Complex structures of hollow bone,
feathers for warmth and flight.

Winter goldfinch waits to feed.
Chickadee flits by on tiny wing.
Downy propels his body up the tree.
Juncos etch colors of the heart.

Red-breasted nuthatches arrive.
Scribes with inky black heads
tell a story common to the 
forest, now set on the prairie.

The pair records the
first December light.
Calligraphers of a journey,
gentle words for a season. 


*Copyright Jane A. Wolfe, December 2018



However you celebrate this season, I wish you peace, joy, love, and light.  As is my Wednesday custom, I link with Kat and the Unravelers






Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Comfort and Joy


Here we are on this bright crisp December day in the midst of another holiday season. The nativity set, complete with two Josephs, is in its familiar place on the mantle. Lance and the kids gave me two pieces each Christmas for several years. For some reason, he and my son picked out the second Joseph thinking it was one of the three wisemen. Eventually, my son-in-law and daughter located the missing wise man on eBay and gave it to me. This old Hallmark set brings me comfort and joy. I love looking at it and remembering the young sweet faces of our son and daughter. Now they nurture their own families through the season. I hung our stockings and finished up with my minimalist decorating which means putting out a few favorites, enough to make the house feel like Christmas. 



My daughter, the boys, and I are reading Christmas stories via FaceTime. It is fun to watch their choices change day to day and year to year. Jonah usually wants to read "one more book" and I am happy to oblige. This season he loves the reindeer and rhythm in The Night Before Christmas. The book is easy to read via FaceTime because it has one illustration per page. Familiar text is a bonus. I have become quite adept at juggling a book and a cell phone while reading. The fingerless mitts were a hit with all the boys. Jonah wore his to church and showed them to everyone who would listen, "Nebraska, my Grammy." He likes red.

Last night I knit the heel flap and turn on the first Christmas sock. The blue faced leicester and nylon yarn is going to make a wooly sturdy sock. I chose an eye of partridge heel flap to go with the exuberant yarn. This week I heeded the good advice of blog friends to knit more of the shawl before starting over with another pattern. I discovered I really like the yarn/pattern combination. Experience has taught me that ripping out projects at 10:00 p.m. is not a good idea. Now I'm adding the "knit a little more" idea to my bag of knitting tricks. Shawls are truly my comfort knitting through any season and the subtle texture changes keep this project interesting. On these early dark evenings with tea in a Christmas mug, I knit on the shawl. Yesterday I wound the second skein. The shawl is growing.

I came upon Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer at the library. Maya Angelou's work is a treasure. This is a small book to be savored - one thoughtful poem at a time. I also pulled a copy of her book, Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem from my shelf. This book was a gift from my son quite a few years ago. The ribbon book mark was on the package with a small card. Either of these books would be a lovely gift for a reader. Comfort reading to be sure.


As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I wish you the comfort and joy this season.