Tuesday, September 26, 2017

And the summer went...where, again?

Actually, I have a pretty good idea where the summer went.

Have you ever had one of those periods in life that seems entirely designed to forcefully remind you that You Are Not In Control Here?  Yes?  Well, me, too.  A lot happened this summer, nothing that I'd call catastrophic, but a lot that was just about letting it happen and rolling with it, because I was definitely Not In Charge.  Some of it I'll talk about here, some of it maybe not, but either way, I promised at least a few more pictures from Ireland, yes?

I believe I left off last time in Meath, having seen Dowth, and headed for Newgrange, which has been restored.  Some therefore criticize it as a Disneyfied version of a passage-tomb, and I get that.  On the other hand, when you stand in the central chamber (where no photography is allowed, sorry), under a corbelled roof that has not been restored, and that has also not leaked even one little bit in 5,000 years of Irish rain - well, let's just say it was a pretty intense experience.  In the meantime, here's the impressive (even though reconstructed) facade:

 The light box on top of the doorway there admits the first light of the sun at the winter solstice.  They actually have a lottery for people to be inside at dawn for the three days around the winter solstice - with no guarantee of good weather or a visible sunrise.  (Wise, methinks.)

We then drove up to Sligo, where we spent a delightful day being shown around Carrowmore and Carrowkeel by Martin, an amazing guide who has devoted his life to the Neolithic landscape in the area - Rick and I enjoyed every minute of the day.  (Martin also recommended two fabulous pubs to go to for traditional Irish music sessions, where we stayed for hours.  It just never got old.)  We explored the very earliest pre-passage tombs, marveling at the engineering needed to get the capstones up onto their bases.
 One of the things that really struck me as we explored, was the degree of intimacy with the landscape that shows in each of these monuments.  First of all, they're everywhere.  And there are often reflections at the micro scale of larger elements of the macro landscape.  I was also struck by the layering of people living in and making use of the landscape - stone circles just cropped  up (haha) in farmer's fields, or were used in buildings on crofts.  In one case, one of the largest and most intact stone circles we saw has been divided by a farmer's fence, where he refused to sell to the land trust, after they seized one part of his circle through eminent domain (but didn't succeed in getting the last bit!).

We also went and found the oldest passage tombs in the area - the precursors to Newgrange and Knowth and Dowth.  Except that we were able to climb inside these and sit, just quietly, in the dark, listening to the years.
Rick and I also did some hiking in Sligo.
(Glacial valley, much?)  And I saw flag iris!  You know how you read about things, and you have a vision in your head of what they must be, but you've never seen them before, and then you do?  This is what happens to a California kid who grows up drinking in literature by British and Irish authors - we don't have flag iris here, but they do in Ireland!
I should tell you that the greens in these photos are not enhanced - this is what it's like.  (I should also mention that I took my new camera along, and had a blast playing with it.  It's so much smaller than our older digital SLR - this one isn't SLR - and it took fabulous photos.  Then my SIL - who had recommended this one and who is an amazing photographer - came to visit and gave me even more pointers.)
On our last night, we stayed in the Wicklow mountains, to which I must return.  Our final morning saw us hiking on the Guinness estate (yes, that Guinness), where I found white thorn trees (also something about which I've read again and again, but had never seen).  Beautiful, yes?
The waters were black with peat.  And the rocks growing with tiny ferns and mosses.
We drove over the pass towards the airport in Dublin, and stopped to look back onto the valley where we'd been hiking, and the tarn at the top.
(Glacial valley much?)

And then, finally, after a solid week of driving, during which Rick chose for me (he's the navigator, I'm the driver - and we had a left-hand stick shift for this trip!) the most narrow, windy, country roads he could, we found sheep.
All I could say was, 'bout time.

I'll leave it there for now.  I have knitting to report on - I've been knitting along with the Year of Techniques (Mason-Dixon), and while I haven't done them all so far, I've had fun with the ones I have completed, and I've learned a few things that I know I'll use again.  I also knit my first mosaic project, which just needs its ends woven in.  (In fact, I have nothing current OTN right now - just three crap no four projects sitting on the couch waiting to be finished.  What are you knitting right now?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Let's see if I can get Blogger and iPhoto to talk...

Well, I made it to Ireland and back (sounds like some kind of children's adventure book, doesn't it?).  It was a very short week, packed full of wonderful things.  Followed by a rather insane period of doing things, from which I am still recovering.  Basically, we got back from Ireland on a Thursday evening, which happened to be Kivrin's 16th birthday.  She and Tess came to pick us up at LAX, with Kivrin's new foster dog (more on that, I am sure, in other posts), and we took her out to InNOut (her request) for her birthday, before going home to collapse around 10 pm.  We were up at 6ish the next morning to drive down to San Diego to see the Dalai Lama, who was speaking at UCSD.  Totally worth it, the hour and a half we spent not moving in the parking lot afterwards notwithstanding (more on what he had to say in another post, too).  That afternoon, Rick's parents arrived to help us celebrate Kivrin's 16th, Rick's 50th, and Rick's dad's 75th birthdays, all within a week of each other.  So there was a party, and cooking dinners and cakes, and paddleboarding (Kiv's request)(which is, by the way, more fun than a basket full of kittens, and I now want a paddleboard quite badly). 

Oh, and did I mention I'm teaching an online summer school class through all of this?

So I've been digging out from under, as you might imagine. 

I took many handknit sweaters with me to Ireland.  I am normally a light packer, but a) we had to check a suitcase, so I figured, why not go for a big one, right?, and b) it's Ireland!, and c) I was giving a paper on knitting and wellbeing, so I felt compelled to represent.  But here's the funny thing - I really only got photos of myself in Oa, which was almost too warm, windy and rainy as it was.  It's definitely a winter sweater!  This means I still don't have a photo shoot done of my lovely new stripey sweater, and will have to do that later.  But Oa performed admirably.
Here it is, surviving a crawl through a souterrain at Knowth, and standing on top of the large passage tomb there:
In that photo, you can see the neckline I finally decided on after no fewer than three knit/rip-back iterations.  As you may remember, I wanted to create a sort of stand-up/cowl effect, without the hood.  This turned out to be impossible - or, at least, MUCH more complicated than I wanted to get.  When I modelled my first attempt for the family, Rick politely suggested that I rather looked as though I were headed into space and about to put my helmet on, and Kivrin just said, "no".  I finally decided to keep it simple, and just leave the neckline the same on both sides (it's difficult to raise the back and lower the front in colorwork without steeking, which I decided not to do).  Then I tried to have ribbing around the neckline that would match the sleeves and hem, but that really didn't look so great, either, so I settled on simply finishing it with a red i-cord bind-off, which worked.
I'm happy with it.
And it's pretty darned wind-proof! 

So, photographic proof that Oa is complete, and has been worn to good effect.

There's so much to report on from our trip that I'll break it up a little bit, I think.  We arrived in the afternoon of a Thursday, got our car, and drove to Meath (north of Dublin).  Rick (who generously navigates on our trips, since while I am fine with being lost, I hate to get us lost, and would rather drive) decided it would be fun to take the back roads, so I immediately got to put my left-handed stick shift and small road driving skills to the test, jet-lagged and all.  My stated desiderata for the three days before my conference were: Neolithic monuments, and traditional Irish music.  To that end, we got up early on Friday morning, and headed for the monuments of Newgrange and Knowth, which are the largest of the Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland, and date back some 5,000 years from the present.
The only way to see these monuments is to go to the visitor's center, and sign up to be taken by bus out to each in turn (assuming that you get a spot - we did).  First up was Knowth, where the site has multiple passage tombs, with a large central tomb that you can see here.  Each of these is a mound with a passageway inside leading to a central chamber that usually has three side chambers, rather like a clover.  Knowth's central chamber is too collapsed and unstable to go into, but you can go inside and look down the passage.
Each of the mounds is surrounded by large carved rocks (now protected by a modern cement overhang for the largest one); in many of the tombs, the rocks have collapsed outward, but in Knowth's largest mound, they have been put back upright so that it is possible to see the carving all the way around.

I was fascinated by these carvings, and took picture after picture.  I felt much as I did in Turkey, when we went to Catal Hayuk and Gobekli Tepe - I so wish I could sit down with the people who made these and come to understand what they were symbolizing here.  They strongly resonate with me, but who knows whether it's for the same reasons that people made them in the first place?

As with so many of these sacred sites, there have been layers upon layers of human use.  Early in Knowth's history, there was a wooden henge, which has been reconstructed based on the "shadows" left by the posts in the earth.
And the souterrain that I showed above came during the Middle Ages - this site has seen its fair share of use.
I think I'll stop there for now, and on to Newgrange next post. 

Has anyone else been doing fun things for summer?  Any plans for the long weekend?  I hope you're all having as much fun as I am!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On the fly

Well, knitting has been happening - it's the writing about it that's been failing to occur.  And, to be honest, even the writing hasn't seemed so impossible - it's taking pictures that's been hanging me up. 

Like this:

I finished the striped sweater (cheers, clapping!).  I'm delighted with it.  I have worn it several times, to many kind compliments.  I wanted to do a nice photo shoot to really show it off.  But did not.

Then Oa was making progress, so I figured I'd do a photo shoot with both of them.  Except that finishing Oa turned out to be a real pain in my butt (because I had Plans regarding the neckline, as you may recall - and you know what they say about Plans).  It is now done (wild applause from the audience!), and I am happy with it.  It took me a while to work up to the finishing and blocking (and it took forEVER to dry), but that, too, is done, and I've even worn it (and was told I should have submitted it to the county fair, but was too late).  So photo shoot time, right?

Well, no.  Because the couple who manages the barn where Disco boards are having a baby this month, and I decided, as you do, that the new baby really needed something handknitted.  So that had to get done, because you really can't ask a breathtakingly pregnant woman to hang on while you knit.  So I did that. 

And while I didn't manage a photo shoot, per se (because I was - literally - seaming and weaving in ends and sewing on buttons while sitting ringside watching Tess ride), I did get a few shots before I wrapped it up and handed it over.

And I was going to show you those shots (because honestly, it's the cutest little baby surprise jacket ever, due to an unexpectedly felicitous yarn shortage and subsequent switch halfway through).  But Blogger and iPhoto are refusing to talk, so that's not going to happen.  See?  Me and knitting photos are existing in a relationship that can be summed up by the word "thwart".

Because even after all that was done, and I thought I'd do a photo shoot of my new sweaters, I had a paper due to a journal last week.  And then when that was done, I needed to put together the presentation for my conference next week.  Because tomorrow I'm leaving for Ireland.

Ireland!

To present a paper (written with my dear friend and colleague Marie, she of the pussyhat survey) on the relationships among knitting, identity, and well-being.  How cool is that?

So do you know what I have to go figure out now?

That's right:  what sweaters am I packing, and what knitting projects do I need to bring?

When I get back:  photos of sweaters in the Irish countryside.  I promise.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some stories

Knitting continues.  But with two sweaters on the go, the progress isn't always thrilling to anyone but me.  So, for kicks and giggles, a pair of vignettes for you.


1.
I saved a dove the other day.

The cat came tearing into the house just as I was walking down the hall, something gray and limp in his mouth.  A rat.  It’s that time of year.  I hollered to Rick (rats are not in my wheelhouse), who hollered back that he was on a call, and closed the office door.

I turn to chase the cat back out of the house while he still has control of the rat, but he puts it down (self-censoring of shrieks ensues; Rick’s on a call!).  And I see that it’s a dove, and feel my chest get heavy.

Until it moves, and I think that I’d better contain it before it flies away in the house (if it’s well enough), and then figure out what to do with it (if it’s really hurt).  So, I shoo the cat away, gathering the dove up in a towel.  It breathes fast and shallow, its eyes dull and half-open, but I see no obvious damage (besides a patch of missing features on the back of its neck – dumb cat!).  I remember hearing somewhere that when a bird runs into a window pane (or is attacked by a cat – dumb cat!), it’s the shock that can kill them, and if they can get through that, they’re sometimes OK; I made a note of it, because this isn’t the first time this has happened.  So, warmth and hydration.  OK.  Wrapped in a towel; warm: check.  I try letting little drops of water fall from my fingertips into her mouth, and she seems to swallow, but it’s tremendously inefficient.  Standing at the kitchen sink, I look at the window sill and see the nasal aspirator (don’t ask) that I use to clean fountain pens, ah-ha!  I try that – perfect.  One drop at a time, her throat moves as she swallows.  But her eye is still half-closed and dull, and her breathing rapid and hard.

I take her outside and put her in on the table in dappled sun, and sit with her quietly, abandoning my other plans, giving myself over to seeing what happens next, what I can do.  I give her some water from time to time and let her rest, waiting to see what might happen.  I watch the towel rising and falling with her breath.  I read, I enjoy the sun and the breeze, I wait.

When I look up again, the towel has fallen still.  I peek around the edge, nervous of what I might see.  But – there is a bright black eye looking at me, aware and awake and very present.  I lean in with the dropper to offer more water, and with a great clattering of wings and cooing, she bursts out of the towel, away from my hand, over the bushes, over the telephone wires, and vanishes, leaving me, heart racing, alone on the patio in the sun.


2.
We walk out to the car, Kivrin and Tilly and I, she on her way to school, Tilly and I ready for a walk after drop-off.  I look down the driveway as we go to the car, eyes out for Roxie, our neighbor’s dog, who sometimes lures Tilly away from the car – usually on the mornings when we most need to hurry. 

Coming up the driveway, a person, in gray loose clothes, head down, arms crossed over chest, gender indeterminate.  No-one comes up our easement unless they’re actually headed for one of our houses, and this person, as soon as they see us come out, turns around and heads back down the hill.

While we’re generally left alone at the top of our driveway, we did once have someone rifle through the cars in the night – was this person on their way up to do the same?  Hating to feel automatically suspicious, I decide that maybe they’re looking for a lost pet, scanning the ditch between driveways where nasturtium grows wild and coyotes hunt the rabbits (and cats and dogs and chickens) who stray there.  Either way, we’ll pass the person on the way down, and I can get a better sense of what’s going on then (back of my mind: do I call Rick and let him know to be on the lookout?).

We load up and start rolling and as we draw closer, the person steps off the driveway, into the dirt, and hunkers down. 

I stop, not sure what to expect, and unroll Kivrin’s window.  Are you OK?  Can I help you?

She’s young.   Her hair is long and unbrushed, with twigs and tangles in it.  Her face is open and guileless, and her eyes are lost.  Yes, she says.  Yes.  I’m confused, and I don’t know where I am.  A little embarrassed laugh.

I park and get out of the car.  She’s barefoot, her feet small and dirty and scratched.  I’m Jocelyn, I say, and she says, I’m Sarah.  I was out with a bad crowd, and I think maybe I was rufied.  I’m lost. 

Let’s get you up to the house, I say, and get you some help.  My mind is going in five directions – Kivrin’s in the car, and the dog.  I don’t want to stick this young woman in the car with a dog who might be hyper and bark – I want to be able to hear what she’s saying.  Kivrin can’t drive the car back up; I don’t want to leave Sarah to hike up to the house myself while I get the car back up there.  These thoughts race as I begin to guide her up the driveway; Rick can come down and drive Kiv to school in my car while I figure out who to call.  That will work.

We’ll call someone, I say.

She says, I know my grandmother’s number – she lives somewhere around here. 

We stop.  I go back to the car for my phone.  I ask her the number, and she says it while I’m still getting to the right screen to dial, and I ask for it again, hoping that she can remember it twice, that it’s a real number, that it’s actually her grandmother.  I realize I don’t remember her name now, and ask for it again as the phone dials, apologizing.

It’s Sarah, she says slowly.  Sarah Lyn – tasting the words on her tongue.

The phone is answered.  Hi, I say, my name is Jocelyn, and I’m here with your granddaughter, Sarah…?

Expressions of relief.  Where are you?  I can come get her right away.  I’ll be right there.  I tell her my address, and the cross street – it turns out she lives right on my cross street.  I’ll be right there, she says again.  I tell her we’ll wait at the bottom of the driveway.

I turn to Sarah, asking if she’s OK getting in the car with the dog, so we can wait for her grandmother.  I’m looking at her bare feet, imagining that they are cold on the pavement.  She loves dogs, she says; she’d gone out to walk the dog – she was staying at her grandmother’s to detox, she thought she’d already detoxed, she should have known better when someone offered her a bong, they must have put something else in it.  She’s trying to make sense; each sentence does, individually, but the narrative isn’t coherent.

She gets in the car.  I introduce her to Kivrin, wanting Sarah to know that we see a person there in the backseat of our car, wanting to create a semblance of normalcy, of okayness.  I can’t believe I’m lost, she says, I’ve lived here all my life.  This is embarrassing.  I tell her not to be embarrassed, it’s OK – we all get lost sometimes.

We wait at the bottom of the driveway, for a few minutes that feel much longer, as we talk about dogs and drugs and being lost and feeling embarrassed, until I see an SUV marked with the sheriff’s logo across the street.  My first thought: her grandmother called the cops to scare her?  Then I realize – she’s been missing; her grandmother called the police to help find her.

I get out of the car as the sheriff pulls to one side of me, the grandmother’s car right behind, pulling to the other.  Sarah gets out, saying thank you – I tell her I’m really glad we could help, glad that she found us.  I mean it.  The sheriff is eyeing my car, taking in the bumper stickers, the dirt from driving to the barn, the long driveway behind us.  The grandmother gets out of her car, jerks her head at the passenger side door as Sarah passes, comes up to me.

And throws her arms around me and doesn’t let go.  She’s crying and thanking me.  It’s OK, I say.  I’m glad Sarah knew your number, I say (I think I said, I’m pretty sure I said).  When she finally pulls away, she tells me that she’s been so scared, this is the first time for her – Sarah’s done this before but her parents have given up on her and she’s come to live with them they have appointments for her but they haven’t happened yet she just didn’t know what to do.  And I tell her it’s OK.  I’m glad that we found Sarah – and I am.  I tell her that she has my number now, and truly, she should know that we’re right there, and it’s OK to call.  I mean it.

I give the sheriff’s deputy my name and (at his request) birthday (not my cell phone? not my address?  right – they can find me with my name and birth date), say goodbye and good luck to Sarah’s grandmother and wave to her through the window.

I turn back to get into my car, where my daughter sits in the front seat, clean and safe (no dirty feet, no twigs in her hair or blood on her knee or bruises on her wrist, not cold, not hungry).  I turn to her (her eyes clear, not lost, not confused), and for one moment, it’s almost too much to bear, this juxtaposition (please never let my daughter have that lost look in her eyes, pleasepleaseplease; please never let her have to rely on the kindness of strangers – please let strangers be kind to her when she’s in need), and my breath catches in my chest. 

You OK, I ask?  Yes, she says.

And we drive to school, leaving the cars and Sarah behind. 

When I get back, they are gone.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Knitting along - plus forwarding a language survey

(The language survey is at the bottom, so if you're here for that instead of knitting, feel free to hop on down there!)

So, a post just about knitting, I think.  I am feeling the excitement of spring, which seems to lead me to want to find new projects and cast them on, even though I'm also trying very hard to finish the big sweater I have OTN.  So, without further ado...

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought yarn (cashmere!  how could I not?!) to make a cowl while I was in Massachusetts (because I was taken, through no fault of of my own, to WEBS, and, well, cashmere!).  I cast on right away, and had it finished in about a day.
That's how it started out.  The pattern, which was printed on the label attached to one end by a little ribbon, called for two stripes of each color, but I decided to do just one thicker stripe of each, and to change the color sequence a little bit.  I was delighted with the way it turned out, and wore it for the rest of my trip.  It's not a huge cowl, but because it's doubled (and cashmere!), it's tremendously warm.
The yarn is Lux Adorna DK weight cashmere (!).  I truly love the hand on this yarn - it's simultaneously crisp and buttery.  It was a pleasure to knit with, and the colors are rich; it goes with a lot of my winter clothes, and I'll get years of use out of this one, I think.  Of course, it's warmed up too much here for it right now, so it will be put away until winter.

I've also finished the mitts that I knitted as the first pattern in the Year of Techniques.  The helical stripe trick is a ton of fun, and I can see other ways to use it in the future.  Which was, of course, the whole point of doing the Year of Techniques (more on that in a moment).  I finished the mitts over the weekend, and Kivrin promptly snagged them and bore them away.  I managed to get her to let me take one photo before they disappeared again.
They would have been done much sooner, but I've been plugging away at Oa.
As you can see, I've got the sleeves finished and joined, and am working my way through the raglan decreases.  Gwilim is utterly convinced that I've knitted this as his personal cat bed.


 He is wrong.



Once I've finished the raglan decreases, I'm going to have to make a decision.  The original pattern is a hoodie.  But I'm not sure that I want a hood.  This is going to be a VERY warm sweater as it is, given the stranded colorwork.  I almost never actually pull a hood up, so I'm not sure I want it there on my back whenever I wear this.  I very much like the look of the neck, though, going into the hood - it looks almost cowllike.  So I need to figure out whether I can get that look by foregoing the steek and hood, and simply knitting the neckband once I've finished decreasing for the shoulders (input from all and sundry is very welcome on this question).  Soon, I'll know whether that is a good idea, or a catastrophe.  Stay tuned!


In the meantime, I got my email with the next pattern for the Year of Techniques, but at the same time, that dratted Ann posted about a sweater she's knitting, and I took one look at the stripes and just felt like I needed a happy stripey springy sweater of my own.  Then I looked at the yarn at the bottom of the page, got an eyeful of one of the colorways, and started lusting after a stripey sweater of my own.

Drat it.

But honestly - blues?  with a fun yellow for contrast?  I had to have it, right?  (So much for knitting each of the Year of Technique patterns as they come out - intarsia, I'll get to you later, baby!)

Of course, me being me, I decided that I really don't want a Carpino (which is the pattern Ann is using); something about the mesh front kind of bugs me.  So that led to hours (and hours) of time on Rav trying to find the perfect pattern for a striped sweater.  I finally decided on Poolside, which has the top-down raglan look I wanted, and some lace, but not lace on the whole front.  Unfortunately, since the yarn I have is fingering, and the pattern is written for sport weight yarn, I'll have to do some math and jiggering once I've knitted a swatch, but I'm thinking that once that's done, I'm home free.  I'm planning to plagiarize Ann's stripes, which I like quite a lot.  I'm hoping that this will be some relatively simple knitting to do while reading or going to meetings, as Oa really requires me to look at my hands quite a lot (I can knit with one strand of yarn in each hand, but I have to check in with myself not infrequently).

So, that's all that's on my needles (in any kind of active way, at least)!  How about you?

And, as promised up top, here is a language survey that is being conducted by some colleagues of mine - if you're interested in language and language use (you do not have to be multilingual), please give it a shot and feel free to pass it on!

"We are two researchers from California State University San Marcos, Nicoleta Bateman and Golnaz Nanbakhsh. We are conducting an anonymous survey to learn about how speakers in the US use languages other than English (be they heritage/home languages, or second languages) in different social contexts. The survey will take between approximately 2 and 7 minutes, depending on your answers/situation. Thank you so much for participating!"
(ETA: this is the correct link; the first one was missing a "t" at the end)
https://csusm.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3sn7oeANVWx8iot

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Little things (inevitably becoming bigger things)

I meant to post as soon as I got back from my recent trip, but immediately came down with an airplane cold (you know the kind I'm talking about - the one where you sit on a plane, listening to someone hacking up a lung two rows behind and caddycorner from you, and think, yep, here it comes, baby!), and have spent the last five days or so in sinus misery.  I can finally breathe through my nose again, and even though my head still feels kind of fuzzy and I frequently lose my train of thought, I figured I'd take my chances and try to compose something that makes sense.

What recent trip, you're probably asking?  Well, I managed to make time to go to Massachusetts to see my older daughter for her final riding competition of the year, and for her birthday.  Unfortunately, we were busy enough that I didn't also make time to see many loved friends and relatives while I was there - but not unfortunately, she and I had a lovely long weekend together, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I also didn't take work with me; I can't tell you how long that's been.  (So long, in fact, that I kept having to ask her: shouldn't I be doing something right now?  You know, other than eating and sleeping and knitting and reading and visiting?  Something like work?  No, mom, she kept reassuring me - no.)

She is one of the (once-)little things in my life (you know what I mean - not a little thing in my life, but she was once tiny) that is clearly (!!) not so little any more (and again, !!).
That's Tess.  (The girls are now old enough that I decided it was up to them whether I used their names or Older/Younger Daughter, and they have both given me permission to use their names.)  She just turned 19 last week.  That means it's been 19 years since I brought her home, a new mom, the first of my friends to have a child.  I so clearly remember sitting with my friend Leela at the kitchen table, the day after Rick went back to work, staring at Tess in her car seat then looking at each other and going, now what do we do with her?

Well, in spite/because of what we did with/to her, there she is, happily ensconced at college, halfway through the second semester of her sophomore year.  Majoring in Biology (which still comes as a bit of a shock - she was my unstoppable lit/social science person; just goes to show you what an excellent teacher can do to inspire a student, and boy did she have an excellent bio teacher in high school). While she was in class, I grabbed the opportunity to take my new camera for a walk around campus.
 It wasn't warm.  In fact, the lovely innkeepers at the place where we stayed referred to the weather as "raw", a word that I remember my mother using (it's not something you hear often from a Californian) to describe exactly the kind of chill, damp weather we had when I was there.
I found myself, as I often am, unreasonably charmed by the ice, encasing these leaves, and the lower lake. 
(Yes, I did manage to restrain myself from poking the ice with a stick. But only because the trees had already done it for me.)
 As I walked, I found myself near the greenhouse on campus, where I wandered into a fairy tale spring.
I took endless pictures of flowers, which I won't subject you to here.  It was so lush and beautiful, and they were able to grow such a huge range of plants in such a small place.  I wish I enjoyed gardening more, because I certainly love gardens!

And then, as it started to snow, I wandered around campus.  Yes, my daughter apparently attends Hogwarts.


 But our visit wasn't all classes and walks on campus!  There was much time spent with horses.

Including several brutally early mornings spent in astonishingly cold barns (the team riders call MHC's barn The Icebox - the name is well-earned).  Thank goodness horse blankets are warm and available (if you don't mind smelling of horses!).

I also got to see Tess compete with her team.
I never cease to be amazed at her courage and guts.  In these competitions, riders draw their horses by lot, and ride what they get.  Tess, like me, isn't naturally inclined towards public performance or competition, and yet there she is, quite literally getting back up on horses after falling off, getting thrown (last spring, getting a concussion), dealing with good moods, bad moods, squirrelly, calm, whatever she gets, and simultaneously having to think about her equitation.  I know that she didn't do as well in this competition as she'd hoped, but that doesn't change how I feel about her and who she is and what she does.

I'm still getting used to having a daughter who's living on her own, far away from home.  Getting to spend this time with her, in her space, was a real gift.  I mean, I know in my head that she has her own life, but there's something really lovely about getting to actually see her move confidently in a space that she has made her own, getting to meet and spend time with the fabulous, interesting, and funny women whom she's made her friends, seeing how she navigates a world that is entirely hers and never was mine.  This is exactly what we raise our children to do - to go out and be themselves in the world.  But it's not something that's easy to imagine before it actually happens.  And really, it happens again and again at different stages in their lives.  Each step that my girls take into themselves feels new and exciting, and, at the same time, exactly what I expected to have happen.  I found myself deeply touched by how willing she is to open the door and let me in for a while, sharing her time and her place with me.  Rick has business on the east coast at the end of the month, and will get to have his own visit with her (which makes me feel a bit less guilty about our snatched mother/daughter time).

And it wasn't all horses and ice.  I was going to avoid WEBS, because honestly - I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head.  But Tess had finished the project that she started while she was here for the holidays, and (my hand to god - it was her idea, not mine) wanted to go to get yarn for projects to knit in lecture.
That's the lovely scarf (it's HUGE) that she knitted (she offered to knit me one if I got her the yarn, and I was SO tempted, but it turns out I live in, you know, San Diego, and it's already April, so it didn't seem practical).  Of course, once I was there, I succumbed, but!  You'll be impressed - I got one thing, for one project, and I knitted and wore it while I was there.  I'll post FO shots next time, but here's a teaser in the meantime - another small thing that got bigger (those are little mini-skeins of, get this, cashmere; how could I walk away from that?!).
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Unfortunately, after all of that loveliness, I came home not only to a cold, but to two missing chickens.  Because that left us with one lone chicken, and because there's nothing sadder in the world than a lonely chicken, three more small things came to join us last week.
 They, too, are (thankfully) getting bigger!

Friday, March 17, 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to the barn...

A post with musings about partisanship and conversations.

So, a funny thing did, indeed, happen at the barn a bit ago, and I've been mulling it over off and on ever since.  First, full disclosure:  I have bumper stickers on my car.  This is actually a fairly recent phenomenon (I was always a bumper stickerless sort of person until recently; I still wear my bumper stickered status kind of uncomfortably - it may change).  The bumper stickers on my car are: Coexist; A woman's place is everywhere; the Obama sticker that says "Hope over fear"; I'm with her; and 13.1.  My basic policy about bumper stickers is this: they must say what I stand for, not what I stand against.

So, I recently pulled into the ranch where Disco boards and drove (slowly! speed limit 5 mph!) over to the bathrooms to change.  As I did, I noticed a man walking in the same direction from the covered arena - I pegged him as a dad waiting for his daughter to finish her lesson, and smiled.  I tend to feel friendly towards people at the barn, assuming that, whatever else may be true, we share some interest in horses one way or another.  He seemed very occupied with examining my car (which I should also note, in the interests of full disclosure, is an old and very dirty Prius - I do a lot of driving, some of it on dirt, and it shows).  I headed into the bathroom to change, and when I came out, he was past my car and turning to look at it, again, over his shoulder. 

I got in, started up, and was pulling out when I saw he'd circled back.  I unrolled my window.  Looking back, I was still in the mode of assuming that our common element was horses, and I think my expectation was that he was going to ask whether I had a horse at the barn, or whether I worked with one of the trainers, or something along those lines. 

He said, "I couldn't help but notice your bumper stickers."

At which point, I wondered whether we were on the same page, in a social justicey kind of way.  Once in a while, people will comment on liking one of the bumper stickers.

He said, "We don't see eye to eye at all, politically."  Oh.

"Oh?"  (Because I wasn't quite sure where to go with that.)

"I voted for Trump, and I have to tell you, I am very happy right now."  (This was a few days after the first immigration ban.)

I made another semi-interested, noncommittal noise.  Mostly because I was taking it in, and trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  In the moment, my sincere feeling was that he'd never actually met anyone who thought the things I had on my bumper stickers, and he was checking out the liberal in the wild.  Friends later suggested that he was trying to pick a fight.  Maybe I was picking up on that, too.  But my strongest feeling was this: he was not seeing me as a person.  I don't know what he was seeing, but it really wasn't me.  He said,
"We really do not see eye to eye!"

And I, not knowing what else to do with that uncomfortable feeling that he wasn't seeing me, and I really would feel much better if he did, stuck my hand out the car window and said,
"Hi.  My name is Jocelyn.  It's really nice to meet you!"

He stopped short.  His hand was halfway out before, I think, he realized what he was doing (those social norms are strong, aren't they?), and he responded by introducing himself.  I told him it was nice to meet him, and he said again: "Well, we really don't see eye to eye."  I said, "That's one of the nice things about a democracy!", and he excused himself and wandered off.

It was weird.  It was weird because I still don't really quite know what he was hoping for in that conversation.  I do think that, whatever it was, he didn't get it.  I think I went seriously off-script.  I'm just curious what the script was supposed to be. 

In a larger way, I also found it interesting that he approached me to tell me that he disagreed with me.  It's not something I would do.  I noticed the same thing yesterday, as I was standing outside my Representative's office with signs - some people would make a point of flipping us off or giving us a thumb's down.  It caught my attention because I regularly drive past a protest outside a health clinic - I don't agree at all with what the protesters stand for, but it wouldn't occur to me to flip them off; it doesn't seem like a conversation starter, you know?  On the other hand, maybe I'm just assuming that such a dialogue can't happen and avoiding engagement?  In other words, should it seem hopeful to me that someone would approach me about my bumper stickers - incipient conversation - or was it the verbal equivalent of the flip-off - no conversation, just an opportunity to say I don't agree with you?  Conversations seem so important, and yet so impossible, right now; I'm not sure what to do about that.  (Although a friend just sent me a link to a roundup of interesting articles about conversations and how to have them: here it is.)  What do you think?  How do you handle seeing visible signs of some stranger's non-alignment with your views in the world?

Meanwhile, the wisteria are blooming, and the leaves on the sycamores are coming out, and the branches on the oaks trees on my morning walk are tipped with new red leaves, almost like flowers.  I think it's spring.