Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tender Questions

A male robin often perches in the ornamental pear tree in our front yard. Since January, he claims this tree as his space. The little bits of some fruit that remained in the tree are long gone although I doubt he could eat all of them. I call him the "guard robin" as he chases all other birds out of the tree. He behaves as if his dominance is paramount and that food and perching space in the neighborhood are scarce. Other robins seem to move among the mature trees lining the street. The cardinal couples shelter in a tall blue spruce or the bushes along the front of the house. If either cardinal dares to perch in the tree, the robin flies at them. So goes the world. Sharing power and territory is not easy.

Honore' invites us to reflect on the one word I chose for 2020. I chose tender. Lately I've been thinking of it in relationship to the earth and climate change. Poet Mary Oliver wrote masterfully about the tender soul of the earth. This poem is a beautiful reflection on the interdependence of all things on the earth.

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another?
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it and not the camel?
Come to think about it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Mary Oliver, House of Light. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1990. p.1

So one more time, I resolve to do my best to live tenderly in this world, to focus as much on the reduce and reuse as the recycle side of the triangle, and to voice my opinion to elected officials and those running for office. There are no easy answers. I live in a country that is dependent on fossil fuel consumption and a society driven by consumerism based on scarcity. I have many questions but none as eloquent or as tender as Oliver's.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Sunday, my husband and I, enjoyed the milder afternoon by walking on the MoPac Trail. This trail, east of Lincoln, is named for an old Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor that it follows. The portion we walked is outside the city limits. As the prairie comes to the end of winter's rest, I find beauty and peace in the subdued landscape. Although a few shaded spots on the trail were covered with frozen slush, green weeds poked up along the edges. Finches and juncos chirped. We came upon this lightbulb art piece tucked back in a lane off the trail.  Here I am in my old barn jacket and patched jeans, looking a little like my Mom in one of her many red coats.

The lightbulbs hold a special place in my heart. My daughter and her family lived in Lincoln the summer they were installed. My two eldest grandsons and I spent many happy hours visiting them. At first Emmett was frightened by some of them and so we just drove by. Then as we ventured out to look at the more whimsical pieces, he lost his fear and wanted to get out at each location. Then he chose his favorites to revisit and show to his next youngest brother, Micah. Of course as we drove around town, we sang, "This Little Light of Mine." Later the pieces were auctioned with the proceeds going to The Lighthouse, a local agency serving at risk teens. They found new locations around the city, hence the surprise siting off the trail near a restored prairie. For me, that summer was golden. We took this photo and sent it to the boys.

The good news is walking, which I love, now eases my back pain. I am also able to knit on most projects, taking frequent breaks to stretch or move. Really, we should all be doing this as a preventative measure. I knit a bit on this baby sweater and hope to finish for a mid-March shower. I am ready to knit the bottom ribbing but may rip back a few rows. It looks long to me. Thank goodness I noted the needle size for the ribbing in my Rav notes. Otherwise I'd have no idea what size I used on the neck. Whew.

Last evening, I finished the knitting on this shawl so it is ready for a bath and blocking. I left the teal yarn attached in case I didn't like the gold edge. In the light of morning, I think it is fine. I love the golds, tans, and browns on the prairie but I don't wear them often. I think some of the dithering about this shawl has to do with the gold accent. Color influences my knitting in a big way. I am often drawn to new designs by the colors in the sample. How about you?

I am listening to The Giver of Stars, a novel based about a group of five women who worked as pack-horse librarians in Kentucky during the 1930's. The traveling library was a WPA project promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt as a way to develop literacy. At the beginning, I thought the story and characters were too predictable. About midway, I am quite invested in the young women and the obstacles they face. The growing friendship between five women of different backgrounds is very heartening. Because I need something more peaceful at bedtime, I am rereading Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach. This journal of Grumbach's experiment of spending days in solitude is a ramble through her reactions on winter days in Maine. The book was published in 1994 and recalls such a different time.

Late as it is, I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I hope you are making good progress with your knitting and seeing a little glimmer of Spring. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


The morning sky is gray and heavy with clouds. After sunny milder days, the temperature will drop quite low tonight. Spring is a ways off. Still, the quality of daylight changes as the sun sets a little later. This week the bird songs sounded like Spring. One afternoon I walked and noticed a bush across the street almost quivering. It was covered with fluttering chirping sparrows. Here, house finches have nearly squeezed out the sparrows so seeing them was a treat. Funny how I never paid much attention to the humble brown sparrow until recently. I looked for a cat or large bird of prey but didn't see one. Maybe they were just happy to converse with each other in the sunshine.  

This is a week for patience with weather and with myself. After a PT session of strengthening exercises, I type with an icepack at my back. Two steps forward, one back - no pun intended. My back is better just not back to normal. Patience is required as I remind myself this condition is very minor compared to others with catastrophic illness and other difficulties in life. I am also grateful to be knitting on both of these projects. 

At least I think I am grateful for this shawl! I have knit this pattern previously and the eyelets are simple. I don't know if I was engrossed in the audiobook mystery or just trying to keep myself in a good position for knitting. Regardless I unraveled the eyelets several times. First I made a rookie mistake of skipping two yarn overs. When I knit this pattern previously, I followed the chart to knit the eyelets. Somehow I forgot there was a chart and knit from the printed directions. As I put the stitches back on the needle for the third time, I somehow recalled an old email notification for a pattern update. By then, my pattern was covered with four different marks indicating the rows knitted. There was one little pesky error in the printed directions for the eyelet pattern. I updated the pattern, printed fresh pages of this section, and have been happily knitting ever since. Egad. Here's a tip: before you reknit something for the third or fourth time check the Ravelry pattern for a correction/ update. How many years have I been knitting?!!

This hitchhiker is really fun. It's wild and busy but it makes me smile. I began by knitting eyelets on every other tooth, then stretched the space to every third tooth. If I knit another scrappy hitchhiker, I'd skip the eyelets. The fabric is plenty busy without them. This is my second hitchhiker and I'm going to keep it in mind for gift knitting. If you like garter stitch it's fun to knit and who can't use a scarf to wrap around their neck in chilly weather. 

I continue to savor Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams. If I thought my congressional representatives would read it, I'd send them a copy. How I wish elected representatives would listen to the literary voices. They are so wise and eloquent. Last night I finished The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I found ideas I missed previously, including the touching and sweet little Epilogue. I enjoy all of Cather's writing, but I think she is at her best when she writes of strong women. While reading this novel, I reread a few letters (The Selected Letters of Willa Cather) Cather wrote about the novel as it was being published. She mentioned a couple of experiences she took from her life to create the fictional characters and the story. In The Song of the Lark Cather meanders slowly through her heroine's life but I love the pace of the story and the descriptive writing. Her writing has such depth.

So as I join Kat and the Unravelers today, I wish you smooth sailing, little patience required, with your knitting and reading. I plan to make a cup of winter white chai and enjoy the light of February. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Hello February

Light snow welcomes winter back into February. This past weekend the sun was out and warm temperatures felt like Spring. It's too early for 60 degrees in Nebraska. I bought a pink cyclamen to add a little color to the kitchen/dining room. I love snow, somehow it refreshes the day. This feels like a good week for some refreshment.  

Thank you all for your kind words about my goofy back. With some help from a physical therapist, it is on the mend and not completely unraveling. Navigating on my laptop is not the most comfortable. I am keeping up with blogs as I am able. Some days that means more reading than commenting.   

Two weeks ago, I tossed my stash and goodness what a lot of lovely yarn I found in those bins. Just for fun I created one of yarns and scraps that I might like to use in 2020. I wanted the yarn easily accessible. Mind you, I don't promise to knit any or all of it as I usually let knitting take me where it will. No list goes with the yarns. I wrote too many goals and mission statements when I was working to impose that approach on my knitting. 

Before this back business, I finished this cowl. I couldn't find any yarn in my stash to add as an accent and had more than enough of the two colors to finish. This a great pattern for leftovers. The cowl goes with mitts I knit previously. 

Garter stitch is helping me ease back to knitting. I am knitting odds and ends of Koigu yarn into a scrappy hitchhiker. I'm not sure this scarf needs both eyelets and multiple colorways of variegated yarns but that is the way I began and it's fun to add the next color. This project began as a garter scarf knit on the edge and with an i-cord edge. 

I've also been working on the Rewilding Shawl - version 3 or 4 - I've lost track. The yarn is lovely and I especially like the rate of increases and the edges. The first pattern I tried with this yarn had an i-cord edge. Between the scarf that became a hitchhiker and this shawl, I learned that the slipped stitch or stitches in an i-cord edge don't stretch as much as a garter edge. Really, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Perhaps on a bigger needle the tension wouldn't be so noticeable or maybe the lack of stretchiness is a result of the way I tension the yarn while knitting. I wanted to try an i-cord edge on a shawl and so now I have. What I learned is that I will have to weigh the finished look against the decrease in stretchiness. There is always something to learn while knitting which is one of the reasons I like to knit. 

While resting and not knitting, I read The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. The plot was interesting and will make for good discussion when it comes up later this year in my book group. The novel certainly has the vibe of new contemporary fiction by a younger writer. I returned to Savage Beauty, the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay and finished it. Sometimes returning to a book is worthwhile. Millay lived a very unconventional life and wrote remarkable sonnets. I'm still not certain how to think about her. The sections about her childhood and then later on as she found literary success were the most interesting to me. I currently am reading Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams, one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Her beautiful writing about the natural world and thoughts on climate change makes this a book to savor.  

I am joining Kat and the Unravelers today. Take a look to see what others are knitting and reading. I hope you are all well today. Happy February.

By the way, is colorway/color way one word or two? I never can remember. What are you learning from your knitting/making today?