November musings

Reflections in a water lily pond. One purple bloom in dark water, multiple lilypads. Reflections of window arches and a man wearing a striped orange shirt.
Reflections in a water lily pond.

Almost every autumn, there’s a trip to a formal garden or a nature preserve, as a treat. This time it was Longwood Gardens, with some sudden downpours, then sun in a half-grey sky. There were too many people in the orangery and conservatories for comfort (we stayed masked indoors). But the open spaces, including the meadow, were filled with enchantment. We spied many interesting birds: turkey vultures and hawks on the wing; a ruby-crowned kinglet vibrating with outrage from a hybrid American chestnut tree; suspected hermit thrushes, scuffling off into the undergrowth; and so many goldfinches, purple finches, and sparrows eating seeds in the meadow. There were also the normal amount of people who had tired of nature and let their children and partners roam free while they looked at their phones for a while.

The chrysanthemum displays are always wonderful, but looking at the trees on our walk was more satisfying — so many colors. That and discovering the blooming holly: one of my favorite things to sniff. I’m musing how to translate photos into watercolors or pen washes this November, when the weather is too wet for walks. Just a lovely visit to almost normal. I’m also contemplating other craft items in the home and which I wish to try when I have some of my home projects (housework and paid work) done.

I hope, before the weather shifts again, you have a chance to get outside and breathe in clean air, even if you can’t stray far from where you are. And if you are snowbound in the near future, may you have lots of books and lovely projects to keep you company.

Finished knitting – Artisans vest

Still on a semi-hiatus from Rav, to give my eyes a break. I’m going to post here, then nip in and update the page there.

This was a very satisfying project with the ability to make adjustments to the pattern. Cotton comfort yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery was lovely to use, and blocked really well (I can’t remember the name of the contrast yarn, but I think I picked it up at Green Mountain during a trip. Pattern: Artisans Vest

Photo shows a torso, with person wearing a grey-green sweater vest with a grey and pink multi-colored patch at shoulders and ivory colored buttons.
Artisan’s Vest. Modifications: contrast yarn at the shoulders and armholes. Seedstitch button band.

There are things I’d do differently in the future. But this pattern is intuitive and reasonably quick. I was able to make modifications to the base pattern with only a little bit of swatching to test my ideas. I may have yarn leftover for an autumn weight hat. 🙂 If you’re ever visiting the spinners in Vermont, the Putney Food Coop across the street is lovely. If I lived in the area, this would be my go-to for sandwiches and hot tea.

Natural intrusions

I’ve been away from the blog (although not away away….), focusing on work, reading, and knitting. Finished a vest (the Artisan’s vest from Green Mountain Spinnery), which I’m pretty pleased with, although it sparked questions about how to do a better button band (I’m on it, and reading up on ideas for the next vest).

I acquired a new sewing machine, which holds a lot of promise if I can play with it around my work. The days are now punctuated by a desire to get outside and at least look at other peoples’ yards before all the blooms are gone. There was a banner year of figs and grapes.

However, there is a difference of opinions about yellow jackets

(Took a while for me to get to the point of this post…)

The cats think they’re great. I’m less than impressed that the cats are riling up stragglers who get inside. I’ve been spending my free time trapping angry insects in glass jars and waiting until they calm down. Then I slide a stiff card under the opening and march the angry buzzing cargo outdoors. After waiting a while, I tip over the glass jar with a broom. There’s been a lot of shrieking (after muting the work line). The worst was when two cats were tangled up in the barricade towels with one really indignant specimen of wasp-kind. Brr.

I will post thoughts on the current mysteries that I’m reading once I’ve gotten further in. They are helping me feel October-y without having to watch horror movies. The yellow jacket invaders are creepy enough.

Wishing everyone a happy October. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to post about my latest knitting, reading, etc.

Quiet time with cats

I’m still here, slowing down to take time to walk around the neighborhood, observing how the neighbors’ flowers are growing. I’ve been enjoying observing the figs as they slowly ripen on the branches – a wonderful change from last year. And, like many people, I’ve taken up bird watching because I’m curious about which bird is making noises (mostly blue jays this season). On a road trip, I saw a blue heron and an egret flying. Marvelous!

I did get to see some family after over a year of waiting. But mostly, I’m enjoying quiet time with cats.

And loud times with cats:

  • A bird is outside: outrage! Cue angry paws against the window pane.
  • The food has not arrived yet: oh woe! Oh woe for me, your starving baby….
  • The other cat is using the box. Cue soft thumps of bodies throughout the house.
  • You startled me. Explosion of cats in different directions.

It’s entertaining, if distracting.

The day job is busy (thank goodness). Slow progress is being made on the vest and the cross-stitch, when I’m not fishing for cats with the feather on a string.

It’s mostly cats here. And worry about the world, which is a bit overwhelming. But it’s mostly cats, who would love fresh tuna (not on their diet) or a real mouse (please no).

I haven’t been on Rav for a long time, because it’s fractious on my computer. But I may have to go on to check on some of the knitters whose blogs have gone into the aether. I’m going to be sporadic in posting because (gestures at the world). I’m sure you understand (nods in 2021, and hope everyone is staying safe).

Small creative pursuits

It’s been quiet, creative-wise, around here. Due to lack of workspace and cat interventions, I’ve had to put aside some of my bigger projects (sewing machine repair so I can make a muslin, some of my painting), and focus on small things when I have time. While the cats sleep, I’ve found free time and space for:

  • Knitting washcloths
  • Stitching beads onto my counted cross-stitch kit
  • Working on the front of the Artisan’s Vest

And of course there’s reading. Current poetry book: Whereas: Poems by Layli Long Soldier. Long Soldier’s poetry is fascinating, and very different. I think I’ve reread “Steady Summer” multiple times. Link to the publisher’s page: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/whereas.

Here’s a taste from “Steady Summer”:

"... through half-propped 
windows I swallow
grass scent the solstice
makes a mind
wide makes it
oceanic blue ..." 

Some of the poems are hard to parse, more visual than lyrical. Other poems require me to look things up in history books, because I’m not familiar with Oglala Lakota background, environment (anything, really… and it’s my job to educate myself, since public school did not).

There have been brief travels, now that family are vaccinated, for quick visits. Seeing other environments has helped a little. And I went, fully masked, to see the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was outdoors (and kind of amazing). I’m trying to weigh what I’m comfortable with against what seems to be safe. It’s complicated…. I’ve also been limiting my time online (when not for work) and my time on Rav because I didn’t enjoy the headaches from the interface. Not sure if I will ditch my Rav account (I was one of the second wave of beta testers when the site went live). I think it depends on how weird that site gets.

So what are you reading or creating in your free time?

Me and the boys

Here in the mid-Atlantic, everyone is being serenaded by lots of love-starved, bug-eyed cicadas. Tree canopies vibrate with their noise. I’ve had business meetings where people ask me to turn down the AC or the mechanical noise on my side of the call, and I have to say, “Nope, that’s the bugs!”

It’s loud, and raucous, and drowns out the sounds of lawnmowers. Impressive. At least one or two of the lotharios have tried rattling against the siding of a drain spout, to get the attention of the lady cicadas. Are there any female cicadas yet? I have no idea. But….

When they fly, they catch the sunlight in their wings. They look very different from the slightly cross-eyed looking black bugs with bright red eyes. In the morning, when I’m half awake, they look a little bit like clumsy fairies who land and then fall off the boxwood or the tulip tree. They’re apparently tasty: neighborhood birds have cleared up some of the straggling bug castanets. If you ask me whether they are tasty, I can only say the birds act like they’re a delicacy and newspeople have been talking recipes (nope. Not trying stir fry.).

Photo of a 17-year cicada on the trunk of a young gingko tree. He has red eyes, a black body, and golden wings.
Lovesick troubadour

I’ve had conversations with neighbors where we shout over the din: “They’re really loud!” “Yes! I’m glad they quiet down at night.” It’s like someone cloned 50 copies of the Backstreet Boys, and then let them out to do a concert and they’re all slightly off sync, so instead of a coherent song you get a mosaic wall of crashing sounds.

I am glad they quiet down at night. I wish they’d sleep in.

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.


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