Sunday, January 20, 2019

Reflections on Instagram and conversations about racism in the knitting community


I have been absorbed in the conversation on Instagram this week, about racism in the knitting community.  I have been reading, watching people’s stories about the precipitating event and about the responses to that event, thinking carefully. (Note: by “precipitating event”, I don’t mean “isolated incident” – I mean “one thing that looks a lot like countless other things that just haven’t happened to lead to a big important conversation, even though they should have.)  What I’ve seen has resonated with what I know to be true in academia, and with what I have been also seeing and worrying a lot about in the mindfulness community, where words like ‘forgiveness’ are bandied about without any context or discussion of what it means to tell, for example, POC to forgive without a concomitant addressing of the ongoing institutional violence and oppression that they are being asked to forgive.  That, folks, is a problem.  That is something that I’d like to talk more about in the future, when I can make better reference to the people who are on the front lines of dealing with that, and who have written and spoken wisely and thoughtfully about it. 

By the same token, I don’t want to summarize the discussion on IG or speak for the people who have done so much educating – that they shouldn’t have to do – over the past week.  I’d instead refer you to: @ggmadeit; @thecolormustard; @su.krita, who kindly gave me permission to point you in their direction.  There are many other people doing this work whom I hope you will seek out as well.

I really wasn’t sure that I’d end up saying anything about this, for a couple of reasons.  The first has to do with my own use of IG, which, until this week, has largely been to follow friends and family – in other words, it hasn’t been a place where I’ve engaged a whole lot with the knitting community.  In the last week, though, IG has become a place where I follow knitters and spinners.  In some ways, I’m not sure how I feel about that, because I’ve been trying to spend less time on social media, not more.  But at the same time, I can’t regret the inspiration I have drawn from the projects and work of so many fantastic and creative women.  So.

This blog is the space where I have done much more connecting and thinking about making and the world of makers.  And this is the space where I have to look at and think carefully about the makeup of the blogs and bloggers I follow, which are almost exclusively white women.  That is not OK, and it is not OK that I hadn’t until now taken steps to change that - to make sure that the blogs that I read and follow represent the world that I live in.  I also have to think about my disappointment in several of the well-known white women designers whose work I love and whose blogs and IG feeds I do follow, who have said absolutely nothing about the work that’s been done this week.  It’s impossible for me to imagine that they don’t know about it, so where are their voices?  Where is their work to amplify those who have spoken so clearly this week?

And that’s what finally helped me to realize that I need to say something.  I don’t have a lot of readers any more, and I don’t have very many followers on IG who are part of the knitting community.  (In fact, for those of you who aren’t knitters who followed the link from my IG feed – hi!  Yes, I have a knitting blog – who knew, right?). So, it’s not like I can do a lot of amplifying here.  And I don’t want to tell the stories that BIPOC members of the community live every day and have told so well (see those references above – there are so many more).  Instead, I want to talk about parts of the response to those stories that have disturbed me greatly, and that have done additional violence to those who exposed themselves in coming forward to talk about their experiences of racism in the knitting community. 

And I want to say this very clearly to those women who have been doing all of this work – that, I say again, they should not have to do – I hear you.  I know that you know this, but I want to say that I know that you are not crazy.  Racism and its effects in the knitting community (and academia, and the mindfulness community, and and and…) are real and corrosive.  Thank you.  Thank you for taking the time and emotional energy to talk about that.  Thank you for your continuing work in calling people out on the deeply problematic ways that they’ve responded to the initial discussion.  I can’t imagine the toll it’s taken on you and continues to take on you.

It’s those responses that I want to talk about a little more.  I can’t say that I’ve been surprised by the way that many WW have responded, nor by what they’ve said in their own posts, and in the comments on the posts I reference above.  But I have been disgusted and appalled.  There are two trends in particular that I want to call out.  First, the “I’ve been afraid to say something” (because someone might get mad at me, I might say the wrong thing, etc).  And second the “let’s get past this/I want this space to return to being my happy space/let peace begin with me/let’s level up” responses. 

OK.  “I’ve been afraid to say something because I might say the wrong thing and then someone might get mad at me.”  I hear this all the time from young men in my gender classes.  (And I, too, feel that fear.)  There they are, perhaps for the first time, sitting in a room with women who talk about the ways that sexism and violence against women inform everything that women do, every single day.  And at some point, some young man says exactly that: I’m afraid to talk because I might say the wrong thing and someone might get mad at me.  And I say – and I say this with genuine love and sympathy – good.  You should be afraid, and you should know what it’s like to have to watch every word you say because someone might take it the wrong way and police you.  Welcome to the lived experience of members of oppressed groups, who have to watch what they say all the time.  All. The. Time.  Every minute of every day.  And for whom the consequences of saying “the wrong thing” aren’t just facing the momentary discomfort of being called out for it.  The consequences are far worse and far more systematic.  Loss of jobs.  Violence.  Lack of justice for violence perpetrated against them.  All of that and more.  So, with love, I say this same thing to the women on IG who have left that comment: sit with that discomfort.  Think carefully before you speak.  And, when you have something important and useful to say, say it with care, and then listen, with care, to what people have to say to you.  If someone takes the time and energy to tell you that what you just said was problematic, think for a moment about how hard it was for them to do that – given that difficulty, assume that what they’re saying is important enough to take on board.  And that goes for what I’m saying here.  There is no way that I am getting this all right.  I am trying my best, but I live and breathe a racist system just like the rest of us.  I am sorry for what I am getting wrong, and while I don’t think it is anyone’s job to educate me, if any of you want to share with me how I can do better, I am listening.

My other response to this fear of saying the wrong thing is this: maybe we should all be careful, all the time, of our words.  I’m a linguist in no small part because I believe in my guts that words are powerful things.  They change worlds.  With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day coming up, I can’t help but think of his famous speech – when he said he had a dream, he was speaking that dream into reality.  We are not there yet, but his words call into being the possibility of a better future.  Which is what we all need to be working towards, and what I hope the knitting community can take a step towards, thanks to the powerful words of women who spoke and speak out.

And that brings me to that other response that I’m really hating right now: Ok, we’ve said this stuff, now can we go back to our peaceful happy place?  First off, if we really read what people had to say, we’d see that, obviously, that space is neither peaceful nor happy for those folks who wrote about the problem of racism in the community.  Right?  So we can’t go back to that – we shouldn’t want to.  We should want to go forward, to something more inclusive.  How can this be my happy place if it’s someone else’s oppressive place?  This is the hard and important work for white people: to see and acknowledge and feel the pain and violence that white supremacy causes to us.  To white people.  To want to return to a happy place that we know is exclusionary to others makes us less human.  I don’t want to be less human, just because it’s easy.  And I don’t want my desire to dismantle racism to come from a place of white saviourhood, which is what happens when I think of it as something that’s happening to “them”, over there.  Racism is toxic, period.

This also highlights a thing that I’ve mulled over in both personal and social relationships for a long time: the habit that people have of wanting to take credit for the good without taking responsibility for the bad.  In personal relationships, this happens when I say, but these things you did? They were abusive and painful.  And the person I’m talking to says, why do you always want to talk about the bad things?  What about all of the good things? 

Yep, the good things are there.  But you can’t pretend that’s all that’s there just because it’s easier and more comfortable, when the bad things are making lumps under the rug where you’ve swept them.

In history, white folks want to do this.  We want credit for Lincoln without taking the responsibility for Jackson.  And responsibility doesn’t mean a quick mea culpa and then can we move on please?  I’m thinking restitution. I’m thinking dismantling structures that replicate the injustices “of the past” again and again.  Sorry and now let’s move on doesn’t cut it. 

I didn’t mean to write this much, and I think it’s time to stop and listen. A few final words.  First, if anyone reading this has responded in one of these ways, please realize that doing so, or glossing over this past week as if it didn’t happen, is another form of violence.  Please don’t do that.  The second thing is to remember to see the women who came forward to speak in all of their resilience and glory.  Their feeds are full of creativity and beauty that I find totally inspiring.  Please don’t treat their feeds as pain porn to feed some kind of white liberal guilt.  This conversation is one part of a much larger whole – a critical part, but not all that there is.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Energy

I wrote this post in my head last Thursday, and then life got in the way and it didn't actually make it onto the page. 

I wrote it while on a lovely hike (Thursdays are my work at home day, so I have a bit more time to actually get my feet onto dirt) during which I felt so good that I actually - get this - ran a little bit.  I can't tell you how long it's been since that happened.  And as I was jogging along, feeling pretty good, it suddenly hit me - I was feeling pretty good!  And then it hit me - that must mean that I've been feeling pretty not-good for a while, you know?

I know that seems like a weird thing to say, but this has happened to me enough times now that I recognize it.  It happened during several major bouts of depression, after my back surgery, and, several times now, with RA. 

The obvious onset of RA and diagnosis came pretty quickly for me - I was very lucky.  In the spring of 2017, I visited Tess at Mount Holyoke, and I remember clearly being able to sit cross-legged on the bed, tuck my leg under me when I sat in a chair, and that I could hunker down to take photos of the ice on the long lake on campus.  That was at the end of March.  By May, I couldn't do any of those things.  By June, and definitely into July, it was becoming so painful to hook and unhook my bra, or to pull a t-shirt off over my head, that I began to worry that I'd have to start asking Rick to help me dress and undress.  I also found that if I sat for any length of time, getting up again was... well, let's just say it was really painful, and it took a few minutes for my hips to unkink enough for me to walk without hanging on to something.  I felt like an old lady - I'd stand up in restaurants and then just wait, hanging on to the back of my chair, to unfold, creakily, into some position that would let me walk.

And here's where I got lucky.  My GP sent me to a fantastic rheumatologist.  He asked for the full history of my symptoms, did a physical exam, and told me that even though my bloodwork kept (and still keeps) coming back negative for any of the markers of RA (or any other autoimmune disorder), he was sure it was RA. (As an aside, this is called seronegative RA, and about 30% of cases fall into this category.)  He then gave me a ten-day course of steroids as a final diagnostic - if I responded strongly, he considered that an affirmative diagnosis.

And boy howdy, did I respond.  The first two days, nothing.  And then on day three, I woke up, and people - I felt like I could rule the fucking world. 

I say it like that, because that's exactly how I felt.  I felt huge and expansive, like I had more energy than I knew what to do with.  I could MOVE!  I could PUT ON MY CLOTHES!  I could THINK!  I wanted to start knitting projects, and go on walks, and find new books to read.  The list went on and on.  I wanted to ride my horse, and paddleboard, and and and...

Now, I'm pretty sure that at least some of that was simply the steroids (I now have a much better understanding of why people get hooked on them, outside of the world of inflammation and pain - I felt fanfuckingtastic!  Until the ten-day course ended, when I wanted to die; but that's another story).  But I also know that a lot of it was simply the contrast between what I was feeling before, and how I felt on the steroids.  I had known, intellectually, that the way I felt wasn't my normal self.  But my body and activities had adjusted, in some ways - in an unconscious form of triage, I'd given things up that I hadn't even realized I'd given up.  My list of priorities included things like, spending time with my family doing the things they like to do in the summer, taking care of my horse, and keeping up my end of the house-running bargain.  That all seemed like a normal summer, but it wasn't.  Usually, in the summer, I also exercise, and start new and complicated knitting projects, and think about my classes in the fall, and read books I don't have time to get around to during the year.  I'd also wanted to reboot the blog (as you may recall).  All of those things fell by the wayside, unnoticed.  And I somehow thought I was living my life, because the "real" stuff was getting done. 

Until I had enough energy to do all the things I usually do.  Wow.

And that's what just happened again.  After diagnosis, I started on methotrexate, which is the first-line drug of choice for RA, because it's cheap, and it works for a lot of RA patients. I was on it for a number of months, until we realized that while I could live with the nausea if I absolutely had to, I could not live with the brain fade that stole my mind two days a week - my job requires me to have a brain, and to be able to find words; I'm a linguist, for goodness' sake!  I then went on leflunomide, with the goal of seeing how well it worked and then probably adding a quinine derivative.  Usually there's a three-drug regimen, but the third is a sulfa drug, and I'm allergic to those, so the goal was to see if the two drugs together could control the symptoms.  But when the doctor looked at my joints in February, he wasn't at all happy with the progression of the disease, and he started me on Humira. 

This is where I talk, briefly, about how important health insurance is.  I absolutely canNOT imagine how people with an illness like this manage without it.  I have always been appalled by the lack of universal coverage in this nation, and having RA just makes me even more angry.  I am lucky - I have very good insurance, and it authorized my use of Humira, a drug which costs upwards of $24,000 a year.  But what about people who don't have insurance, and can't afford that (I couldn't afford that without insurance, and I make a good living)?  Doesn't their health and well-being matter to us, as a nation?  (I know the answer to that, I just don't like it.)  But that's a rant for another day.

In any case, the Humira wasn't perfect, but it seemed to be helping.  We'd just decided to give it a full six months before making the call on whether it's the right treatment for me, when I suddenly gained a bunch of weight in a very short time, had swelling in my belly, and began experiencing heart arrhythmias.  Which looks a lot like heart failure.  Which Humira can cause, in a small subset of people (who knew?).  So off the Humira I went for several months, while I waited to see a cardiologist for all kinds of tests.  The good news is that my heart looks fine, so the decision was made to try Humira again one more time, and I now have five injections (which means about ten weeks) under my belt. 

And (and here's the punchline of this whole thing), I think it finally kicked in last week.  Because all of a sudden, I was running a little bit, and not wishing for/taking a nap most days, and I had brain space to think about swatching and casting on for both a sweater AND Kivrin's college blanket (more on that in the knitting round-up post I have planned). 

What's weird is, I hadn't even really realized that I wasn't doing any of those things, until I found myself wanting to again.  I'd thought I was doing OK - work was getting done, all my to-do list items were getting checked off (or, at least, at my usual rate, which invariably involves moving some tasks from week to week - usually tasks that include a trip to the post office - am I the only one who finds packing things up an getting them to the post office strangely overwhelming?), so I was fine, right?

Guess not.  I hadn't realized how much I'd deteriorated, how much energy I was spending managing pain and discomfort and fatigue, until those things lifted, at least most of the way.

In any case, I'm hoping that the very occasional weird heart rate things I'm getting are just that - weird heart rate things.  Because it's nice to be able to type this whole post without hurting; it's nice to knit without having to stop every ten minutes for a break; it's nice to take a long walk and maybe even run a little.

It's nice to climb a tree.  Which I also did.





A tree invites me
Climb.  We embrace each other
in uncertain times.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Negotiations

I keep trying to figure out how to start these posts.  It feels to me, in some ways, like starting in the middle of the story - giving updates on where I am now, presupposing everything that's happened in the last year.  At some point, I'll go back and write about how I got here.  But not today.

Today, I'm thinking about how I've been learning to negotiate with activities and objects that I really never had to think about before.  One interesting aspect of RA, for me, is that, while I'm very lucky and none of my joints has undergone remodeling, they certainly aren't unaffected.  They can be uncomfortable quite a bit of the time, and sometimes actively painful.  But worse, for me, is that they often feel weak.  In a lot of ways, that is the feature of this year that I've had to bring all of my self-compassion and mindfulness to bear on, in order to avoid ruminating and spiraling into worries about a future that hasn't happened yet, and which may never come.  I grew up playing piano - my first real job in high school was as a piano teacher.  I knit.  I spin.  I write by hand (and love my fountain pens and Traveller's Notebooks).  I ride my horse.  I cook.  In each of these activities, I have always taken the strength and dexterity of my hands for granted.  Up until a year and a half ago, I had never cut myself with a kitchen knife - ever.  (And I cook a LOT.)  I zested my thumb with a lemon zester once (I don't recommend it), but that's it.  And then in the course of two months (February and March 2017), I cut myself twice, once badly enough that we sort of stared at it for a while and wondered whether it needed stitches (especially when it would NOT stop bleeding for half an hour, while I put pressure on it and held my hand over my head).  It was so unlike me that I didn't quite know what to make of it - I am not (was not) clumsy with my hands.  It wasn't until much later that I put it together, and came to think of it as the first joint-related warning sign that all was not well.

Rereading that, here's the statement that I think captures the emotional tension of the last year:

I am not (was not) clumsy with my hands.

That's a lot to come to grips with.  (ha)

One place where I have to do a lot of negotiating is at the barn.  The spigot handle of the hose I use to fill Disco's water bucket is often really tight, and the nozzle we've attached to the hose takes me two hands to open up and close again.  I have learned to notice the frustration and anger that arise when I struggle with these tasks.  Mostly, I manage to take a deep breath, laugh a little, and go back and take it slowly.  Mostly.

On days when things hurt, one of the toughest barn jobs is also one of the most ubiquitous - picking out Disco's hooves.  This is something that I need to do before and after every ride (and I also do it after turning her out) to make sure she hasn't picked up a stone which would stay lodged in the frog of her hoof, or under the shoe - that's uncomfortable, and not so good for her.  It also gives me a chance to check her shoes, and the condition of her hooves, and how her feet and legs are doing.  But hoof picking is a tough task.  It involves bending over, picking up a hoof, and holding it while I dig out anything that's gotten stuck in there.  D's pretty good about it - she picks up her hooves politely when asked (she even anticipates which hoof is next), but she doesn't do all the work of holding them up, and, lacking fingers and wrists, she can't do the digging out part (that's my job).
 That's her back right hoof.  I'm facing backwards, with my right shoulder against her right back leg.  I usually hold her hoof up with my right hand, but (in the interests of trying to take a picture), I'm holding her leg up between my knees, and the camera is in my right hand.  I hold the pick with my thumb on top and fingers on the bottom - the circle shows the pick itself, and the arrow is the direction it's moving.  The goal is to get all of the dirt (and whatever it's hiding) out of there.
For fun, I also took a video of what this looks like.  But my main point here is that this job works my back, both wrists (one to hold up the hoof, the other to pick), and especially the thumb joint and wrist (which has to use a rotational movement to get the job done) of the picking hand.  And I get to do this eight times (one for each hoof before and after riding) whenever I get out there.

At the same time, I'm aware of how good for me my time with Disco is.  Physically, it motivates me to keep moving - and believe me, riding a horse like her in the ways that we ride takes focus, concentration, and a lot of physical work.  Emotionally and spiritually - well, there's nothing like spending time with a half-ton dance partner to ground and uplift at the same time.

All of this captures an interesting tension that exists for me at this stage of the disease.  On the one hand, I am feeling and living the things that are harder for me, or that I have to negotiate differently than I have in the past - and I am sometimes feeling that as a loss.  On the other hand, I am keenly aware that I haven't (yet?) had to give up anything, and that I am so very lucky to have that be true, and to have Disco (among other things and beings) to motivate me to keep it that way.  I'm guessing that I'm not at all alone in living that tension, or in understanding the importance of finding and embracing those motivators.

And speaking of motivators - here's another one, with something to celebrate.  Kivrin, my 17-year-old high school senior, got her license on Tuesday!  She's happy, and I'm happy for her (and for me, as you might imagine).
You go, girl!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

And back again!


I’ve been wondering why I didn’t formally shut down the blog and say goodbye to it.  I was ready to, last February, when I hadn’t written another post in a while, and was feeling pressure to do so.  At the time, as I contemplated actually stating to the world that this phase of my life is done, I felt relief.  There were a lot of reasons for that.  One was that I felt (and I still feel) that I maybe have something bigger to write, and that I wasn’t getting to that.  Frankly, I was also feeling overwhelmed by everything that was on my plate, and the nagging sense that the blog was there, needing to be fed and watered, didn’t help. 

Without fully articulating it, I think I also had, and have, the feeling that I’m going somewhere else in my life, and that, while writing about knitting isn’t something I never want to do again, the mulling thoughts that want to come out of my fingers and onto the page, the conversations that I want to have with other people – those are much less about knitting right now, and more about other things.  And that’s kind of scary.  This is, after all, the blog of the knitting linguist.  And if I’m not writing about knitting or linguistics… I was about to say that I worry about alienating people who came here to read about knitting, but what am I talking about?  This blog has been essentially defunct for some time!

But last week, I had an experience that really made me want to write about it, even if no-one actually ends up reading it.  And it made me realize that at least one answer to the question of: if this is not the blog of the knitting linguist, what is it?  Is: the blog of the knitting linguist, this time with RA.  Of course, that’s only one answer to that question, but it’s a relevant one. 

I think I’ve said before that, last summer, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  A lot of other weird things happened last summer, too, but that one’s been a bit of a focus this year.  I’ll talk more in another post about how that diagnosis came about, and about how lucky I am that it happened as early as it did in the course of the disease, but for now I’ll just say it’s not raging out of control, but neither is it really under control, which is an interesting liminal state to be in.  It means that there are times when I feel that I am not quite as able to do the things that I was able to do a year and a half ago.  And when that happens, and I feel the cold wind of “what will this be like next year”, that I come face to face with a very different kind of understanding about access and ability and difference.

This time, it hit me in a surf shop.  One thing I have been wishing I could do is to swim more in the ocean.  And by “swim more”, I mean “swim at all”.  The ocean has felt too cold to me to swim in for some time.  Call me a wimp, call me temperature sensitive, call me whatever you want, but while I’m happy to walk along the beach, and (depending on the season) get my feet wet looking at tide pools, I haven’t gotten in to swim in a very long time.  I particularly, this summer, began to wish quite strongly that I could snorkel.  So we rented wetsuits and snorkeled in La Jolla a few weeks ago, and I was delighted.  A wet suit changes everything!  Who knew?

I’ve been putting off going into a surf shop to try on wet suits – that’s a whole lot of decision-making and choosing, and I wasn’t motivated to get it done. But we drove by one with a big Labor Day sale sign out front, and Rick pulled into the parking lot, and there we were.  So, we found some suits that looked like they might work, and off I went into the dressing room.  Where I found the first indication that I am really not represented in Wet Suit Land:

I’m nowhere to be seen on that chart.  I’m a titch over 5’2”, and I usually weigh somewhere between 136 and 142.  My measurements are, loosely, 36-30-41.  Check out that chart again.  Apparently, to weigh what I weigh, I’m supposed to be five inches taller.  I mean, I know that neoprene is stretchy, but honestly, people.  Rick’s not on that chart, either (he’s 6’6”), nor is my niece, who is tall and very lean.  All I’m saying is it doesn’t make a girl feel warm and fuzzy.

But that isn’t even why I’m writing this – I’m so used to not being represented in clothes sizes that I’m pretty inured to that reality.  Nope.  What really hit me is that wetsuits are just not made to be easy to get into.  I know that they need to fit tightly in order to serve their function.  But I can’t tell you how hard it is to pull skin-tight stretchy neoprene up and down arms and legs with hands and wrists that are (even minimally – and imagine for folks whose RA has gone further than mine) weak and painful, with tender joints.  This is made much worse by the way the suits are built.  The ones I tried on first had back zippers.  That could be good for access, but those zippers are short, ending well above my waist, which means that the tightest part of the wetsuit (the waist) has to come up over the widest part of my body (the hips; see above), without an opening to help it along.  And then we discovered that most of the newer suits have, instead of a back zipper, a zipper that runs along the front left collarbone.  This means that the whole, skintight suit is like a body suit, with the only opening being the one at the top.  This is FAR more inaccessible than the already-difficult short back zipper. 

And all I could think was, how do people who hurt more than I do, have more weakness than I do, have less mobility than I do – how do they do it?  Or is it assumed that they do not?  That they don’t want to get into the big blue?  Because I guarantee that some of them do.  Maybe the assumption is that dealing with being cold is the price of swimming with disability.  But for me, at least, the cold would make everything worse.  It would kick off my Reynaud’s, cool my joints and make them less mobile and responsive, and generally hurt.  This wetsuit is going to make it possible for me to swim at all in the cooler water.  (And note, I’m not talking about really cold water.  When we snorkeled in La Jolla, the water was 74 degrees, and even with a wetsuit, I was chilly at times.)

Trying on four wetsuits was enough to slow me down for the rest of the day.  Typing this took up the last of what my wrists could do that day. 

None of this is to say that I didn’t know that mobility is a presumed feature of life.  I spent a lot of time with our grandmom as she aged, and was acutely aware of the way that the structure of many places made it difficult for her to get around.  And was also acutely aware of how frustrating and embarrassing that was for her.  I have had students with disabilities both visible and invisible.  Moving around campus with them has been an experience in frustration, in seeing the degree to which they had to plan each move of their day so as to get to class on time, get food between classes, access the bathroom, access space in the classroom.  Those experiences made me careful not to judge someone who seemed to me to be moving more slowly than I’d expect, using the elevator for one floor, taking out a parking placard.  It also made me aware of how invisible those access difficulties are to most members of my community.

As we all know, knowing about something is one thing, but living it, even just the edges of it, is different.  It’s interesting, and frustrating in a new way, to be inside the edges of this problem, instead of walking alongside someone while seeing it from the outside.  It’s a good reminder of how important first-person narratives are, of how critical a range of voices can be in any discussion.

It also makes me think that somebody should be able to design a wetsuit that’s not so bloody difficult to get into!  (ETA: Someone did.  They ain’t cheap.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Back again

Well, that small hiatus was brought to you courtesy of the Linguistic Society of America conference.  I actually think it might be worth writing, at some point soon, about what I was there for; I was privileged to be able to attend and participate in a workshop which brought a number of indigenous scholars to the conference so we could talk about how to incorporate indigenous ways of knowing into the academic discipline of linguistics.  It's definitely worth a post (or ten).

Meanwhile, I am still playing with the camera when I can, and today's post is trees.  I'm not sure I've mentioned my lifelong love affair with trees before.  Some of my happiest memories are of climbing trees as a girl, and I used to scope out the best trees for climbing and sitting in wherever I went (I had favorite trees on my college campus, for example; finding trees that are good to read it is especially important, in my opinion).  I've somehow lost the climbing habit, but I never really lost the practice of paying attention to trees, and in the last couple of years, that habit has only gotten stronger.  I've finally given myself permission to just greet them out loud, and it makes me very happy.  For many years, my affections were given to live oaks and to redwoods - this is perhaps obvious for a Californian.  But any time that I have really become located in a place, walking the same trails day after day, week after week, year after year, trees sneak up on me.  My first memory of the bay laurel, for example, is one of scent, of walking on my favorite trail above Berkeley's campus and smelling something spicy and warm and wonderful, and thinking at first that it must be someone's cologne.  But I kept smelling it on my walks, and the day came when I finally tracked it down to a tree.  That scent always makes me think of ferns and redwoods and fog and my friend Leela and our dogs.

Recently, it's been sycamores.  I never really paid attention to sycamores before, and then I noticed this one particular sycamore, which, having begun its life in the creek bottom, decided that it needed more.  It has flung an arm up the bank of the river, planted it near the side of the trail, and hoisted itself for the skies.  You have just got to admire a spirit like that!  Nothing's going to stop that tree from claiming what it sees as its rightful share of sunshine.
One of the things I've noticed about sycamores on my walks is how they reach up above the live oaks in the river bottom.  They really do like to have their feet wet, but their branches high in the sky.




My little damaged live oak continues to recover from losing most of its crown.  I check in on it regularly.



All right.  I am knitting, and have things to show next time.  But in the meantime, low tides keep calling, and we keep going.  Here's a photo taken at the last low tide just before Tess left for London (!!).  Happy Monday, y'all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fun with photography

My big Christmas present this year (per my request) was a telephoto lens for my camera.  I am really fairly camera-ignorant (working on it), so I totally rely on my sister-in-law (who is a serious photographer, see: GerrBear Photography) to enable guide me in my much more dilettante-level camera play.  Thanks to her, we got a Sony a6000 last year.  Ostensibly, the reason we got a new camera (and I say we, but I mostly mean I) was because we were hoping to hike the JMT last summer.  We figured we'd want an excellent camera, but also a camera that was lighter than our digital Nikon SLR, so we got the Sony for my birthday in February, to give us time to play with it and get it all figured out before we hit the trail.  However, life (in the form of an unexpected need to do summer school for my younger daughter) and the Park Service (in that permits to hike the JMT southbound from Yosemite to Whitney Portal are nigh-impossible to come by) conspired to make that goal unattainable.  Rick and Tess did a shorter backpacking trip instead, and put the camera to good use.  But let's be honest, it's mostly mine (my argument here being that I'm the tiny one in a family of large-handed giants, so I deserve to have a camera that's easier to carry around - right?).

So for Christmas, I got this 55-210 telephoto lens, and I've been fooling.  My beloved SIL also got me an online class to learn more about my camera, which I am really excited about.  I'm committing to making more space for creativity in this next year, and taking pictures is one of the places where it's easy to play around - no chance I'll break something, or waste something (no film!), or any of the things that can feel inhibiting.  Just me, taking the walks I'd take anyway, keeping an eye out.  Which I did twice in the last couple of days.
I seem to be focusing (ha) on a a few different areas, now that I can capture them more clearly with my camera.  One of those is birds.  Birds in the water, like this blue heron.
And this - I want to call it a loon, but we don't have loons.  Anyone know who this is?

And birds in trees.
I love crows and ravens.  They have so much to say, and they are so curious and sure of themselves.

This little guy stayed still for me until I'd gotten my shot, then went about his business.
And birds in the air.




Of course, birds aren't the only ones whom I can see more clearly.  This guy posed for me, quite happily:



Next time, trees!  What are you playing with these days?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A deep breath, and then...

I don't know about you, but I have this sneaking suspicion that someone put Christmas earlier than usual this year.  It might have something to do with the timing of my semester: grades are due tomorrow (I managed to get them filed on Tuesday), and my online intersession class begins today.  So I've been madly grading for the end of last semester, and prepping a class to start online.  My annual conference was also late this year (the weekend after Thanksgiving, instead of the weekend before); that probably has something to do with my sense that December has gotten, shall we say, compressed.  I've also been heavily involved in helping Kivrin get ready for finals - her last two (and the hardest two) are today.  And, of course, there's doing the part of Christmas preparations that have to get finished in advance of the actual days leading up to the holiday (presents for people I love who are far away; thinking in advance about food that we need to get from the farmer's market; etc).

So all of this is to say that, after several weeks of unremitting work (trying to compress my full-time job into the shortest possible days, then coming home and doing hours of homework with Kivrin each evening and weekend, thinking about holiday plans, etc), for one brief and shining moment, I have a very tiny breather.  My class has successfully launched, and there'll be nothing to grade for a couple of days while students get their feet under them.  Kiv's finals are over, and her semester is done.  Most of the holiday shopping is done, and now I get to think about the things that I really take pleasure in - cooking for and spending time with the people that I love most.  And even that I can't do right this minute.  I should clean the house, but that, too, can wait. 

It's weird to be at semi-loose ends.  It feels almost decadent to think: I could (gasp) knitIn the middle of the day.

So I'm not (yet).  I've finished the socks for my friend's son's graduation - I just need to graft the toe and weave in four ends, and they're good to go.  And I'm beavering away, for as much as my hands will allow, on the special birthday present I'm knitting for a friend, out of copper wire.  I was inspired by a fabulous exhibit at the Mingei maybe a month or so ago, and I promptly bought a rather outrageous amount of wire, with all kinds of plans for it.
I'm finding, though, that I can only knit so much of it at one time before my hands begin to hurt in a way that makes me think I should take frequent breaks.  I should also say that I'm not starting with jellyfish (although I have some ideas involving a lightbulb and a hanging lamp...), but we'll see how things go.

I might also go with the girls to the beach this afternoon.  It's low tide, which is the right time to take the dog down and see the sunset.  Nothing makes Tilly happier than the beach.
And I'll get to play with my camera.