Thursday, June 28, 2018

Three on Thursday

Carol Knits often provides a weekly link for blog posts entitled Three on Thursday. I keep meaning to post on a Thursday so today is the day to give it a whirl. My three things are three grandsons and their three successful school years. These three as well as their classmates everywhere speak to hope and light. They are among the fortunate. Thank you to all the parents who get their children to school and to the teachers and administrators who meet them at the door. It takes a village.

1. Grandson A. completed the eighth grade in Texas. He grew MORE inches while throwing the shot, playing football, basketball, and the bassoon. He and his family hosted a foreign exchange student. A. contributed by sharing his home and his place in his parents' hearts and minds to help a young Brazilian feel comfortable.

2. Grandson M. completed four year old preschool in Connecticut. Early in the school year someone asked him what he was learning in preschool. He replied, "I am learning to be brave." And brave he was as played and learned with new friends.

3. Grandson E. completed first grade in Connecticut. He grew permanent teeth and a new shoe size. He learned to play the piano, read fluently, and write stories. He received a Dolphin Award because he demonstrated the four pillars of the school's motto: Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Fair, Be Gentle.

I have thought often of that motto the last few weeks. It is simple enough for kindergarteners with wisdom for all of us. Have a gentle Thursday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Welcome Summer

A welcome steady rain falls this morning after spectacular thunderstorms last night. The sound is so peaceful. Rain in tomorrow's forecast is a good way to usher in the summer. I love a good thunderstorm that doesn't involve property damage. Do people everywhere begin conversations with the weather? Just yesterday I greeted a technician working on internet connectivity. After saying hello, we both remarked on the gray sky and impending thunderstorm. Weather is part of life on the prairie and it is a nice neutral connection.

A week or so ago, I planted flax seeds in my perennial bed. I love the blue flowers and have tried several times, unsuccessfully, to grow them from seed. This time I spaded up the spot, added composted soil, and watered faithfully on 90 degree days. I was so happy to see seedlings push up from ground. Sunday I walked by and noticed half of what I thought were flax plants are actually volunteer tomatoes. The compost must be rich with tomato seeds because they are volunteering all over our yard. I put several in pots on the patio and they are growing better than the plants from the nursery. There is a lesson here somewhere.

This week most of my knitting comes in pink/rose/lavender shades. Funny how that happens. I knit some on the cowl from scraps. The yarn made nice fingerless mitts but this fabric feels stiff so I bumped up a needle size. Washing will soften the yarn some. I am going to knit to the end of the pale pink and see what I think. I am also unraveling a shawl. The pattern is beautiful but I have never worn it. The shawl is long and skinny with ends that wrap forever. Someone taller could wear it well but on a good yoga day I am five foot one. Our lifestyle is casual. If I can't wear a shawl to places like the farmer's market, grocery store, book group, or church, it doesn't get worn. I love the yarn and so am reclaiming it. Fittingly, I join Kat and the Unravelers, to unravel a project.

I finished reading Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters edited by Thomas H. Johnson. The letters are divided into chronological sections. Each section begins with a short description of Dickinson's life during that time period. Most letters are briefly annotated with relevant information about topics or quotations she included. The book is a fascinating view into most of Dickinson's life. Rather than reading a biography filtered through the lens of another writer, these letters are written in Dickinson's own words. As a reader, I was freer to come to my own ideas about her. This seems like a good way to learn about Dickinson in light of all the speculation about her life. The letters present a witty, intelligent, well-read woman very much engaged with her world. Late in life as her health failed and she wasn't writing poems, her letters remained rich with prose. I have been reading from this book on and off for about six months. Now I plan to read from an annotated collection of her poems.

Tomorrow is officially the first day of summer. Welcome summer reading, rainy days, warm days, long evenings, and even volunteer tomatoes. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Knitting and Reading

"What is so rare as a day in June?" James Russell Lowell

Today in Lincoln is the beautiful June day Lowell wrote about in his poem, "The Vision of Sir Launfal." I just looked up the line and don't believe I've ever read the poem. I enjoy following a line of information to it's origin. Anyway today is a welcome respite from hot days of last week and weekend. In Nebraska, we went from chilly April-like weather to what felt like the dog days of August. Still I am enjoying the warmth of sun on my back and making the most of the long light of June evenings.

This lightweight summer shawl is finished and blocked with the extra ends woven in snugly. I find the weaving in of ends rather hypnotic. As my daughter remarks, "sometimes there is something so satisfying about closure." Maybe that is one reason I enjoy knitting up scraps of yarn. Certainly scrappy knitting means extra ends from using up the odds and ends of projects. I often throw scraps I think will combine well into small bags. This week I pulled out a couple of those bags and cast on some small projects. I made a pair of  scrappy preschool sized mittens over the weekend as the temperature outdoors soared in the high nineties. This other odd little collection of leftovers is going to be a cowl. I am using the pattern for it's sequence of stitch patterns but will knit fewer rows. I don't have enough to knit the pattern as is and I prefer to wear smaller cowls that don't bunch up under my coat. 

This month my book group is reading Homegoing by Yaa Yaa Gyasi. The novel is well written. While the story of the two young African women caught up in the slave trade is quite difficult, I think it is an important story. I am reading it in small bits during daylight hours. I am also finishing Marmee and Louisa. This nonfiction work is an interesting story about two strong women coping with poverty created by lack of women's rights. Poor as they were, they were not subjected to the brutality of slavery. My next read will have to be something lighter.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. Then I am off to enjoy this rare June day, happy that I don't need mittens. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Summer Reading

Although the calendar reads Spring, the longer days speak of Summer and long stretches of time for reading. Growing up, I frequented the old Carnegie Library in our small town during the summer. Often my siblings and I went with our Mom. I can recall the smell of old books, the feel of the oak tables and chairs, and the cool basement where the children's section was located. Moving upstairs to check out books from the adult section was a milestone. Mom had to give the library permission for us to check out adult books a little early. Sometime around 7th grade, I exhausted the few chapter books in the children's section. I wonder if there weren't as many young adult novels in those days. At any rate, our library didn't circulate many. I moved on to Bess Streeter Aldrich and mysteries by Mignon Eberhart.

When I taught on the school calendar, I made a summer reading list each May. Later even though the program I worked in extended to year-round services, I made the list. Pondering books for the list is still one of my summer pleasures. I list a few works of fiction and poetry as well as a healthy amount of nonfiction. Often I include a classic that I somehow have never read. I decide which books I'll check out from the library and what I might buy second hand. Then, surprise, I rarely read strictly from the list. If I begin a book I don't like, I abandon it for another without any qualms. If some unlisted book catches my eye, I read it.

Currently I'm reading a book from my list, Rising From the Plains, an intertwined story of well-known geologist David Love, his family, and the natural history of Wyoming. We lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for three years so I am familiar with wind and rock in Wyoming. I almost gave up on this book because of all the geological terms. McPhee's reputation for nonfiction is well deserved so I pushed through the first section of geology. I am glad I persisted because the story of the family and how they were influenced by the land is worth reading. In 1905, Love's mother, a Wellesley graduate with a Phi Beta Kappa key, traveled from Massachusetts to Wyoming to teach school. There she was courted by and married John Love, who went to Wyoming to work as a cowboy after being expelled from the University of Nebraska for putting a sign in a Dean's flowerbed. Mrs. Love began a journal on her trip west and continued off and on through most of her life. McPhee quotes from her writing throughout the book. Because schoolmarms were few and far between near the Love Wyoming ranch, she homeschooled her four children in Greek, Latin, literature, and mathematics. She also sewed up cowboys and hosted outlaws. David Love grew up observing and thinking about the geology of Wyoming to ward off the monotony of days working among rocks and mountains. Eventually he earned a phD in geology from Yale. I can't summarize the geological history of Wyoming but learned it is quite unique with many visible layers of rock formations. Reading is meant to stretch our imagination and knowledge, right? And never plant a sign in a flowerbed at the University of Nebraska.

Knitting on the deck has been lovely the last few evenings. After afternoon chores and dinner, I take my ice water and project to the deck, prop up my feet, and knit for an hour or so while the breeze blows in the first days of June. I finished the two pairs of travel socks, a second fingerless mitt, and am almost done with a shawl. The shawl has been easy warm weather garter stitch knitting with a little lace along the edge. Soon I'll need a new project or two, small for summer knitting, but something besides socks. Do you have a favorite summer knitting project?

Joining Kat and the Unravelers today. Thank you to my readers and commenters. I will try Karen's work-around so I can respond to comments again.