Friday, May 29, 2015

Abundant Rains: The Good, Bad, and Interesting

The gray wet weather pattern continues to roll across eastern Nebraska and other parts of the midwest. One night a few weeks ago, Lincoln recorded 7 inches of rain overnight. Six months ago, the city experienced another a storm that dropped 5.27 inches of rain. Both were classified as hundred year storms. We haven't had any damage but friends and family have not been so fortunate. The ground is saturated. Flooded basements have caused heartache, backache, and property damage. Piles of carpet and other goods have been dumped into the local landfill. In the evenings, a bumper crop of mosquitos buzzes around my neck and face making the outdoors a little less pleasant.

However, established trees are thick with green leaves. In my back yard, the columbine are a riot of color and a rose blossom grew to a seven inch diameter. Iris are blooming over a longer period of time. The basil could use some sun but the cilantro is growing well. Even after several cuttings, lettuce that I planted in a rectangular container provides tasty salad greens. Last year the Japanese Lilac tree had very few flowers. Right now it looks to be lush with blooms.

On one of the few sunny mornings this month, I was out removing the compost tumbler lid to dry out the too-soggy contents. I found this stinkhorn mushroom (photo below) in the yard. My husband had mowed the previous evening so this fungus just popped up over night. The other worldly looking stinkhorn grows in many places including woods, gardens, fields, or any place with decaying plant matter. I've never seen one in my neighborhood or yard. Supposedly it emits a foul odor but I didn't get close enough to find out. My four year old grandson is going to love the name of this oddity.

While traveling under gray skies, I finished a pair of socks in KnitPicks Felici (Sorbet) self-striping sock yarn. The colors are almost too bright but they will be fun to wear next winter. I knit heels in contrasting plain yellow (Wildefoote by Brown Sheep Yarns.) I planned to use the same yellow yarn for the toes but it was a heavier weight. I thought the difference would make the toe too big to fit well. Next time I'll pay more attention when choosing a contrasting yarn for toe and heel. The Vanilla Latte Socks pattern is easy to follow. I did modify it in order to center the ribbing over the top of the foot but forgot to make notes so I'm not sure I could describe how I changed the pattern.

This afternoon I hope to take a walk. If it rains again, I will reknit the bottom ribbing of a sweater and perhaps tune up my sewing machine. Both are good rainy day projects but right now I'd rather be gardening.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Encouragement In the Spirit of Cooperation

Thanks to Linda Hasselstrom of Notes from a Western Life Blog for nominating my blog for the Liebster Award. The award is given by blog writers to other writers in an effort to encourage and support each other. The distribution method helps other bloggers increase their readership. Award nominees, if they choose to participate, tag others for the award. I don't usually participate in chain letter activities. However I chose to participate in the Liebster project to support other writers as well as encourage civility and kindness on the internet. In this spirit, I nominated the writers below. They are under no obligation to participate and I understand they may choose to pass for any number of reasons. Regardless you might want to look at their blogs.

Here is how I interpret the guidelines for this award. First I will answer the questions Linda posed for her nominees. Then I will list my nominees and post a new set of questions for them. Nominees do not have to answer all of the questions. I passed on two of mine.

Questions Posed To Me
1. What event made you start writing? 
Sometime in my forties, I begin to think I would like to try and write but never did so. At age fifty, I attended a reading given by women who had been published in Leaning into the Wind, an anthology of women writing about the West. The writers were ordinary women with busy lives. As I listened to  them, I decided if they could write so could I. Around the same time my seemingly healthy mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Her illness reminded me how quickly our lives can change. I decided if I wanted to try writing that I should begin.

2. What do you enjoy reading?
I enjoy reading a well-written story. I read fiction, biography, nature writing, poetry, and some mysteries.

3. What do you read for inspiration or encouragement?
When I find a writer whose work appeals to me, I read their earlier work. Studying a writer’s growth over time encourages me. 

4. Why do you write?
I write because I like to tell stories and I like discovering my own story. I also enjoy playing with words and language.

5. How much time do you spend writing each day?
When I have no other commitments, I spend about three or so morning hours at my desk.

6. How might you realistically rearrange your schedule to have more writing time?  Since retiring from public school teaching, I feel fortunate to have most mornings to work. I am quite pleased with the amount of time I spend writing.

7. What do you do for relaxation and enjoyment?
I spend time with my family, including my grandchildren. I also knit, read, quilt, walk, practice yoga, and garden.

8. What incident have you never written about?

9. What is the best thing you have written and why?
I recently finished a small collection of poems about containers and ordinary days. I printed and bound them together in handmade books for family and a few friends. This is my version of environmentally friendly self-publishing. 

10. What question do you wish I had asked? Pass

My nominees for the Liebster Award are:

Kate of Beyond Kale - A Mother's Mindful Journey
My daughter Kate writes about her family's journey as they try to teach their children to love and conserve the world with a healthy lifestyle. She writes from the perspective of a mother with a professional career about issues that face young families.

Bonnie of Blue Peninsula
Bonnie, an artist and knitwear designer, writes from Massachusettes.  She designs knitting patterns, creates embroidered artwork, sketches, and supports small independent yarn dyers.

Karen of Pumpkin Sunrise
Karen posts beautiful photographs about her knitting and reading. I enjoy her posts about the beauty she finds in ordinary days.

Sarah of Whistling Girl Knits
Sarah of Oregon is a writer, pattern designer, and photographer. Her strong writing skills inspire me.

Becky and Lucy of Writing in Community
Becky and Lucy write their blog from Nebraska to encourage writers. Both Becky and Lucy have published poetry. Together they wrote and published a book, Writing in Community: Say Goodbye to Writer's Block.

Questions for Writers:
1. What made you decide to write a blog?
2. If you could have dinner with a famous craftsperson (poet, writer, knitter, artist, musician, master gardener, or ???) who would you invite? What would you ask them?
3. Have you ever memorized a poem? Which one do you remember?
4. Do you practice other crafts besides writing? If so what connections do you find between writing and the other crafts?
5. What blog topics do you like to read about?
6. What authors do you admire?
7. Where do you write? What setting works best for you?
8. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or prompt?
9. How do you make time and space for practicing your crafts?

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Nebraska Prairie

My sister and I enjoy the work of Willa Cather. Several of her best known novels are set on the Nebraska prairie. In 1923, she won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, a novel about a young man from Nebraska who finds himself in France during World War One. Recently we took a little road trip to visit the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie and Red Cloud, Nebraska, the small town close to the Nebraska/ Kansas border where Cather spent much of her childhood.

We stayed at the Kaley House, a bed and breakfast in Red Cloud. The gracious old home has been lovingly restored by the Innkeeper and her brother. It was comfortable, immaculately clean, and beautifully furnished with antiques. It also had all the modern amenities we seem to think we need these days. After checking in, we toured the Willa Cather Foundation office/store/gallery, Cather's childhood home, the Red Cloud Opera House, and the bank/museum that was the setting for A Lost Lady.  Later we walked past several other buildings associated with the Cather family.

The next day, we drove out to The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie south of Red Cloud. The Prairie, preserved and restored by the Nature Conservancy and The Nebraska Environmental Trust, is currently maintained by the Willa Cather Foundation. It is located up on the "Divide," a plateau of rolling prairie. We spent several hours on a beautiful April morning walking the trails. The prairie grasses were mostly green and we saw a few wildflowers scattered here and there. As we walked a swallow flew and dived quite near to us. Perhaps she had a nest nearby and preferred we move on down the trail.

Prairie is defined as an extensive area of flat rolling grassland. In that description, lies the subtle contrast. Although the prairie may look flat from a distance, up close or on foot, gentle swells and dips in the land are apparent. One can dismiss the prairie as boring. I say look more closely. Look for the beauty in subtle greens and browns under a great big bowl of a blue sky or a bank of ominous gray clouds. Listen for the familiar five notes of a meadowlark. They are the same notes that Native Americans knew before European settlers arrived. The prairie is an acquired taste. It doesn't grab your attention like a mountain range, an ocean, or a redwood forest but when the grasses bend with the wind and small prairie flowers bloom, is quite something. The few Spring wildflowers hidden among the grasses speak to the possibilities in well cared for land.