Trying to be very quiet

There’s taping going on in the next room. The chorus has gone virtual, which means we’ve all been doing our best. I taped earlier, and I think my tape may get the response, “Oh, dear. She tried.” So many blooper reels. So many times the pretty little horses had coats muddled, or words didn’t come out correctly (spoonerisms…. so many!).

The cats really don’t care about keeping quiet, or what other sounds might ruin a taping. One cat has been quacking and growling outside of the makeshift studio door, climbing up on a hall table to experiment with the door handle. I managed to be quiet, and not hum my part along. I’ve sent away my part, and hopefully it was good enough that the mixer can do magic and make it work with the others.

The funniest blooper reel (besides the one where I warble as sirens respond to a fire call and someone starts to wood chip a stump), was when I realized I had sung the wrong word, said “fudging hell,” and turned off the tape. Apparently working in childcare and in a museum did some good.

Incremental stitches

I’ve been stitching a cross-stitch from a kit. I’m slowly getting to the point where I need to decide if I want to use the beads or not. When it seems ridiculous to stare at a small graph and work on what (effectively) is a stitched version of paint by numbers, I have a vest on the needles.

Photo of a cross-stitch oriole on paper backing. Partially done

Incremental, slow, almost meditative. These colors were cheerful and welcome for the early, cold days of spring.

It’s all slow movements of creativity. Even if I’m using a kit, I need to figure out the instructions, to match thread correctly to the colors’ names (what is the difference between light green, bright green, mustard green, medium green, dark green, fresh spring green, and petite green velvet?), to prevent the cat from gnawing the canvas. And then there are new stitches to learn (half cross-stitches with beads, and cross-stitches with petite beads).

I’ve also been able to go on walks to areas outside of my immediate neighborhood that I haven’t seen since cold weather. Stitching back my thoughts about where my town is, how it relates to other places. And these other places provide spaces for something other than a quick errand into the shops.

Fiberglass cow sculpture in a front yard. House porch is tan stucco. Cow has day of the dead imagery on it, including bones and fanciful flowers.

These other places are whimsical, arty, and surprising. People have been putting in garden beds, or adding statues, small seating areas, and awnings (I assume they are planning outdoor family festivities). From paintings on the sides of walls to cow sculptures in a yard to flowering quince and star magnolias … there was something to see at every corner turned. Such a delight.

Photograph of a red poppy blooming. It is very large, and is planted in a large pot with blue slip decoration. Brown bricks and wooden stairs in background.

I hope you find moments of surprise and delight in spring’s unfolding days.

It’s been a year, or more….

photo of a pink lenten rose in a brown vase.

And the news media is writing about looking back on the pandemic and I just … can’t.

Yes, friends and family of mine have been getting vaccines (this is a good first step). We’re taking the slow first steps of at least one family member being able to physically see people in another state. That’s great.

I’m still here, looking at how beautiful the garden is, and thinking of the people who genuinely got lost. Some to illnesses that are unrelated, yet inextricably linked because the funeral was online and only a few people could attend. (How do you grieve during a funeral if you have to hold the camera steady?) Some to unknown causes, disappeared without a news announcement.

I’ve also been looking at the garden and thinking the many beautiful milestones have happened, even if they were remote. Birthdays via FaceTime, or held over fence walls. Weddings attended online. Celebrations for elders who got their full vaccinations (online as well).

I’m not sure how to be joyful when the news is filled with suffering and grief forestalled. I’m not sure how to grieve, when a grief is unrelated to the big mass event that is still ongoing. I’m not sure how to exchange dread for hope, when I see teens and college students strolling through my neighborhood without their masks. As though an airborne illness can’t touch privilege.

It’s been a year, and there’s hope in my heart. But that’s not all. Wishing you all safety, health, cats and joy.

Revisiting Old Books

I’ve been slowly going through my old PieceWork magazines. Today I’m back visiting January/February 2005, reading “Frocks, Cloaks, and Pumpkin Hoods: Dressing for Winter in Nineteenth-Century New England”. It’s a great article. However, I’m amazed women survived going out wearing thin stockings, silk shoes that look like ballet flats, and low-necked coats. Most of the article’s clothing examples are from the early-19th century. And yes, there is an illustration of a pumpkin hood made of quilted black silk.

I’m inspired to re-read some of my Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, or Dickens novels. Will I feel like I can “see” the pictures created by the authors if I know what a pelisse looks like? Maybe not, but that time period may feel a bit more solid to me.

There are some great knitting patterns: an Old Shale shawl designed by Evelyn A. Clark, Danish wristlets designed by Nancy Bush, a bead-knit tank top designed by Lily M. Chin (daunting), and Selbu mittens that you knit and embroider, adapted from a design by Heidi Fossnes (not listed in Ravelry). I’ve been working on a red version of the Danish wristlets. Now that I’m on the second wristlet, the pattern seems easier. I may end up making a bunch of these for holiday gifting. If you do cross-stitch, the site has a free pattern of a heart with Quaker motifs for the month of February. Maybe a little late for Valentine’s Day planning, but something to consider for next year.

This edition of the magazine is still available for digital download, according to the Long Threads website.

It’s 2021

Orange cat with paw almost obscuring the lens of the camera. White and black whiskers, pink nose, amber eyes.

All I can think of doing right now is tapping the metaphorical mic and ask, “Is this thing on?” A global pandemic has made every celebration a bit odd. We’ve been reading the news, about infection spikes in different countries’ populations. I have fingers crossed for family, friends, and former and current work colleagues. Hopefully we can squeak through to a world where visiting a museum or traveling to see parents is worry-free.

So, how is it going in your neck of the woods / corner of the world / sleepy burgh / oddly quiet city? There is more peace and quiet now that the fireworks on random evenings have stopped. Christmas catalogs from 2020, as well as Christmas letters have arrived. Maybe the last of these will show up by Valentine’s Day? Who knows?

An old house thing

Some of those things they never tell you about old houses:

  • Sometimes you need to kill off trees that grow into the basement.
  • No room will ever have walls that are straight.
  • There is no such thing as quiet AC.
  • There may be ghosts, but you won’t hear them over the AC.
  • There’s a hall light switch in the linen cupboard.

It’s been a week of maintenance, mostly by outdoor experts. And while I love having higher ceilings, nicer views, and a stairwell for the cats to romp on, there are days I would trade it all for a house with modern fixtures.

Not a creature was stirring

… not even a mouse.

So wrong. After observing lots of enthusiastic hunting by my furry assistants, I’m baiting the catch and release trap again. Raphael will be sad when his interactive toys are gone. Last night’s toy sat meekly in the trap with an expression that said “choices were made, and I regret all of them. Do you have any more peanut butter?”.

Advent Calendar – Christmas Day

The last day on an Advent calendar normally has double doors. If it’s a religious calendar, it normally shows the holy family and the babe, etc. etc. If it’s a secular calendar, it might be a scene from inside a candy store, or looking at a hearth with stockings hanging from the mantel. I had thought, originally, that I might make this an art calendar. And then, 2020 being what it is, I settled for sharing favorite photos.

So here, for Christmas day, is a photo of glorious stained glass from Sixth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Stained glass, predominantly in greens and yellows, with a trefoil shape at the top of the bottom rung of panels and then arches above those.
Photograph of a stained glass triptych, with arched windows.

And one of the entryways to the Kolner-Dom (Cologne Cathedral: Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus). More information on the Cathedral is at this link:

Gothic entranceway with a statue of mother and child in between two banks of doors, with an ornate arch with many carvings above them.
I love this archway, with Mary and the baby, flanked by robed people (possibly from the Bible) and the rows of scenes from the bible in the archway (Adam and Eve at the top, then Abraham, and others).

And an art installation from the Burning Man exhibition that came to Washington, DC. So glad I got to see that before it closed. It was very interesting.

Photo of folded paper statue lit from within. The statue is larger than a person, and moves.
Folding mushrooms from Burning Man.

Happy holidays, and here’s to a better, and healthier new year!

Advent Calendar – 26

Koln city lights
Christmas lights in Koln / Cologne, Germany

It’s Christmas Eve, and hopefully if you exchange gifts with family and friends, you’ve managed to either have things shipped from you or have made plans for a safe tradeoff. Things here, due to cutbacks on postal service, are a bit muddled. We’ve decided to celebrate anything that gets through as “hurrah! just in time for New Years / Groundhog’s Day / Valentine’s Day!”

We’ll be celebrating quietly by ourselves, reading books and listening to choral concerts from last year. For my friends who don’t celebrate Christmas: don’t worry, I’ll go back to normal posts after the advent season is over.

Advent Calendar – Day 25

Photo of an orange cat with stripes and big paws. He is looking directly at the viewer with big amber eyes. He is sitting on a table in front of a window with a paper shade.
I’ve been a good boy, and Santa should bring me a box of tissues to destroy. And cheese. Have you heard the gospel of cheese?

It’s little Christmas Eve. Time for rice pudding and more of the Lucia bread. Raphael votes for cheese (sheep or goat cheese would be the best).