Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Close encounters

I had firm plans to post this weekend. I even had finished objects to show off: the Just Enough Ruffles scarf is off the needles and has been worn several times, and the first of my happy green spring socks (not the official name, but I can't remember the pattern name right offhand; it'll come to me) is also off the needles, and I'm about halfway up the foot of the second sock. (Adamantas! I knew it would come to me.) I'm also working away on my no-concentration-necessary scarf during Older Daughter's soccer games, when I can barely be trusted to remember to K7 K2tog consistently, and most certainly cannot be trusted to manage anything more complicated than that.

But the weekend itself got a bit complicated. On Saturday, Rick had to go down to San Diego to work, so the girls and I devised a plan. The plan was that after Older Daughter's soccer game (not such a good one this week), and the speediest run to the farmer's market you ever did see (we were in and out in 15 minutes flat, with strawberries, blueberries, English peas, fava beans, apples, two loaves of bread, two jars of jam, and a few other things), we caught our local train to Oceanside, where we transferred to the Coaster for the trip to Old Town. It was certainly the way to go; the girls played games, and I knitted my sock and read my book and enjoyed the views and generally loved the fact that I was not sitting behind the driver's wheel of a car. It took almost twice as long as driving, but was far more than twice as relaxing. Don't they look like they're having fun?
(Apologies for the crummy camera-phone picture.)

Of course, poor Rick wasn't having nearly so relaxing a time. Turns out the drillers didn't bring what they needed to in order to drill the wells he wanted, so he needed to go back to work after lunch. So the girls and I hied ourselves to the San Diego Zoo, which is always good fun. We saw polar bears and elephants and meerkats.
We saw a condor flying. Alas, the picture was really bad, but let me tell you, a flying condor is a thing to behold. They are massively huge; the girls and I spent several minutes feeling rather awed by our imaginings of what it must have been like to see them, nine-foot wingspan and all, actually flying in the sky overhead. (And there was one rather lovely moment when a zoo bus came by and stopped just a bit too long, which led one condor to fly over to see if it was dead yet.)

Of course, the biggest crowd of people was the one taking pictures of these guys:
Apparently ducklings trump even the most exotic of animals.

On Sunday, we packed up some lunches and headed out to Daley Ranch for a hike; we were bound and determined to give Tilly a good run, and to bring home a dog smelling of sage. There was plenty of sage to run through.
And the bees were going crazy; hiking through some of the little valleys felt like hiking through a giant humming beehive -- the sound of bees was constant, an almost inaudible vibration in our skulls. It was incredibly impressive.

We also heard a rather different buzzing sound, to our very great dismay. We stopped for lunch at one of our favorite picnic spots, where the view is absolutely amazing, just perfect for taking a break about halfway through our hike.
If you click to embiggen, you can see all of the blue-eyed grass in bloom in that little notch betwen the rocks.

We enjoyed our rest and packed up to head out. Older Daughter struck out for the trail first, when buzzing erupted right underneath her feet. She jumped a mile and ran like a jackrabbit, and I saw a rattlesnake slithering right out from where she'd just stepped. I'm sure it was just as scared as she was (it probably spent the rest of its day with the vapors, telling its whole family about the person who nearly stepped on it, poor thing), and it immediately holed up under a nearby rock. We managed to get ourselves (and the dog, who was -- I'm delighted to report -- terrified) past that spot to meet up again with Older Daughter who turned to me and said, "Mama, do you have anything to stop bleeding?", and pointed to what looked like a scratch between two red spots on her leg. I said, in my best panic-is-not-useful-in-emergencies voice, "Did you get bitten?" "Oh, no" says she, "I got this scratch while we were playing around at lunch."


All's well that ends well, and when Older Daughter told us that she kept thinking about just how wrong that could have gone, we reminded her that it didn't, and that it was a good learning experience about barging through grass in the summer in California. Ten minutes later, though, Rick and I looked at each other, and he said quietly, "We had cell phone reception, and I knew exactly where we were." And I said, "My thoughts exactly." Whew.

But talk about a gorgeous hike.
The recent rain means that there's water in places that are usually merely marshy.
Lots of bugs to examine.
And a little bit of shade for a hot dog.

And we all got home under our own steam. It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A new season

It's spring, and a young woman's fancy turns to thoughts of soccer.

Yup, spring soccer (non-competitive, neither of the girls has gone to the competitive leagues) has started, and Older Daughter is back on the fake turf.
Yes, fake turf. For some reason, one of the parks in my town put in a field with fake turf, and that's the spring soccer field. I'm not fond of it, I have to admit: it smells funny (especially when it's wet), and on really sunny days, the field gets so hot that the kids can't take a knee when someone gets hurt, because it burns their knees (they hunker instead). (I've heard the refs complaining about their feet getting too hot during the games, too.) Nevertheless, it's good to be watching her play again, especially since after this year, she'll be too old for this group.

The spring league is particularly interesting because, being small and non-competitive, they play co-ed teams. This year, Rick's calling our defense The Wall of Women; all three of the main defenders (including Older Daughter and a girl who was on her fall team) are girls. And they play a physical game. Given the age range, it shouldn't be surprising that the defense is girls who have had their growth spurts (the fastest offensive players are often the girls who have not); the tallest girls are generally much taller than the boys. So Saturdays are busy again, except on those days (like tomorrow) when we're playing at 8:00 (have to be on the field by 7:30 am), which means that by the time we're done, most normal people are just finishing their Saturday morning coffee.

Spring is showing up in other places, too. It poured off and on all week, and snow levels dropped to about 3,000 feet; yesterday on Palomar Mountain, it was about 27 degrees. And this morning, when I didn't go to the pool to swim, it was 47 degrees. Now it's 63. (Don't worry, I got my exercise in by taking Tilly for the long walk she missed during the rain.) Where'd the sun go? But the mix of sun, then rain, then sun is certainly making the flowers happy.
Matilija poppies. Or, as they're known around here, Fried Egg Flowers.
Sage (my favorite; Tilly always smells so good when we can get her out to the hills to run).
The climbing roses smell wonderful, too. And the orange blossoms are out, which means that the entire neighborhood is filled with their scent; I love driving around with my windows open this time of year.
It's sweet pea season, too. Sweet peas are among my very favorite flowers, and I wait eagerly every year for their brief season, so I can buy bunches and bunches at the farmer's market. This particular bunch matches my finished Damson.
I don't know if I mentioned that this week I had to cancel my field methods class. The reason? A volcano was erupting in Iceland.* Talk about something I never thought I'd have to write in an email to students, but our Bengali speaker was stuck overseas, and couldn't get home to class. And since I don't speak Bengali, it's not like I was able to stand in. But it definitely clinched in my mind the idea that had been brewing there that she needs to end up with this shawl; this semester just wouldn't have been the same without her.

*I have, as you might expect, heard many an excuse for missing class. An Icelandic volcano is certainly one of the better ones. But the best to my mind is still the time that one of my students, a very sincere young man who was a quiet and excellent student, came up to me to tell me that he might not be in my next class because his sow was due to throw her litter, and if she started that night, he probably wouldn't be free to come to campus. I gave it to him. It just appealed to everything in my nature: first, no pregnant female of any species should be stuck going through labor without her support person available to her, and second, if he was making it up, he got full points for creativity. A year later, he took my gender and language class, and cemented his place in my heart during a discussion of the social construction of expectations of potentially attractive mates when he said that he had rather different expectations than the ones his classmates were coming up with: he was looking for a woman who wouldn't mind if he came in from the fields with lanolin on his hands, and who'd be willing to get on in there and lend a hand during lambing season. Man, do I miss that student.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shiny object distractions

Years ago, when I was in grad school, my friend had a wonderful dog named Romeo. Ro was the perfect dog for taking on walks or bike rides (he had boundless energy), and he loved nothing more than a good game of fetch, with either ball or frisbee. However, he did have this tendency to run madly after a ball, only to suddenly find himself utterly distracted by something else (tree! dog! squirrel! car!), whereupon we were the ones fetching the ball that he'd lost in his distraction. My friend called him the Shiny Object Distraction Dog (she also happened to be dating a highly distractable man at the time, whom we subsequently called the Shiny Object Distraction Boy).

As of yesterday morning, I became the Shiny Object Distraction Knitter. But honestly, I defy any of you to say that you wouldn't have done the same. Off I went, just before 9:00 in the morning, to a knitting class at my beloved LYS. It was a wonderful class, and I daresay a good time was had by all. By the time I had to leave, I had completed the class project, and was wearing it proudly.
How much fun is that? And I've totally fallen down the rabbithole, because this morning, I finished this:

And let's be honest. The only reason why I don't have at least one more finished (you can only imagine the daughterous clamor for bracelets) is because I don't have any more of the findings that I would need to make them. You can see them there: incredibly powerful magnets (which are a Shiny Object Distraction in their own right; I spent an embarrassing amount of time playing with mine when we were out to dinner last night. Look! They stick to the table! And the knife! And the salt shaker! And...!!)
I knew I should have gone back yesterday afternoon and cleaned her out of these. This project is the perfect project for using up fingering-weight yarn (of which I tend to have insane amounts); it only takes about 15 yards. It does take up lots of beads (between 200 and 240 for the size I'm making), but I have all of those beads I ordered that I'm not using for the Tibetan Clouds Stole, so it's not like there's a dearth of beads chez moi these days. I anticipate that this will be known by my friends and family as The Year of the Beaded Bracelet, because these seem like the perfect gift. I wonder if Rick would wear one...?

I knitted that blue one first, because it seemed like the perfect go-with-denim bracelet, and my uniform of choice is denim bottoms (jeans or skirts) and a relatively plain top. One must add bling to such an outfit, mustn't one? And then, just as I finished and was wandering around the store, forcing innocent standers-by to admire my handiwork, I saw this skein of yarn.
Fate. It was Fate, I tell you. Don't they go together perfectly? (The colorway is named, appropriately enough, Denim.) This yarn is destined to become a Just Enough Ruffles Scarf, I think; I spent an inordinate amount of time on Ravelry last night, looking for a scarflet in that very elongated triangle shape I'm loving, and that was finally the pattern that I bought. I haven't cast on yet, though, so if anyone knows of another one that I should consider, now's a good time to shout about it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring and fiber

Well, spring has sprung around here. That means that we alternate lovely warm sunny days with days like today, which has been chilly and windy and overcast. I'm OK with that, but I think some creatures around here would prefer more of the sun. Rick went hiking last weekend when I was out of town, and texted me a picture of this lovely guy, whom he found hunkering down in the sun, trying to generate enough energy to move.
Rick was worried that it was dead, until he saw it blink. It was just absorbing as much sunlight as possible. Tilly, however, apparently thought that there was a bit too much of the bright orb overhead, and sat down to rest.
It's a long habit of hers on hot days to trot ahead to a patch of shade and wait for us there. The monkeyflowers liked the sun a bit more.
I, however, have been enjoying our last several days of fog and wind, especially when I'm hiking on trails with Tilly. Somehow those gray skies make our brief green season seem that much greener. There are a lot of flowers out that only appear for this short window of time.
In fibrous news, I'm still contemplating what to knit with my newly-spun Wensleydale. It's all wound up into a yarn cake, just waiting for me to find the right thing to make.
There's about 260 yards of laceweight there (pretty true to color, for once), and I bet if I wind some singles from one bobbin to another so I could finish them up as a three-ply, I could get another 50-60 yards to match (I may do that tonight). Any ideas? I'm thinking something lacey, and vaguely triangular (in that long shallow way I'm liking), but I could probably be swayed.

I'm also working on the Tibetan Clouds Stole (I promised I wouldn't put it aside, Ellen, and I haven't!). (BTW, if you want to see more lovely spinning, you should check out what Ellen's been up to. And Erica's been tempting me down the path of color and spinning, which I swore I'd never follow. You know, I don't think it's knitting that's a gateway craft; it's knitters who drag us further down the rabbithole.). I finally realized that part of what was putting me off was having to pull out the beads and the beading hook and the pattern and the yarn and the pencil, blah blah blah every time I sat down to work on it. So I cleared out one of the trays in my beloved Japanese lunch box, put everything I need for this project into it, and there it sits, beautifully contained and readily available and moveable.
I only have 16 more rows to go on the center square (it does get larger with every row); then I cast off one edges, put one edge on a holder, cast off the third edge, and start knitting back and forth on the last edge. It'll be much easier to see what's going on then, but here's a bit of a teaser for the time being.
This is one fun knit; talk about always wanting to complete just one more row (or in my case, because of the way I mark up my charts, four more rows). I'll be hard-pressed not to work on this tonight instead of finishing my spinning...

Meanwhile, I'm off for my crazy Thursday afternoon kid-activity run. Rick (for reasons known only to himself) decided to calculate just how much driving I do on Thursday afternoons, and came up with a figure of 45 miles. I think I was happier not knowing.

ETA: Marta, by the time I stopped dithering about the GGFI, registration was full, so it doesn't look like I'll be there this year (sniff). I'm really bummed, so I'll count on you to knit and spin a little extra for me, OK?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where does the time go?

Do you think if I offered a reward, someone would find me some time? How did a week go by without me having a single chance to sit down and post?

Well, I actually know how the week went by -- busily -- but it still seems like I should have been able to write a quick something.

In any case, part of the reason why my evenings, at least, were taken up was because I was spinning like a fiend, wanting desperately to finish spinning and plying the Wensleydale I showed you all last time. I divided the four ounces of fiber into three bumps (I even weighed them to be sure I divided it all up nicely), trying to keep the same colors in each bump. I then spun three bobbins of singles, very fine with lots of twist, as I knew I wanted a high-twist sock yarn.
The plan was to finish this up on Wednesday night so I could soak the skein and hang it to dry on Thursday morning, so I could wind it up and pack it to take with me this weekend (more on that below). I did, in fact, almost finish plying on Wednesday night, then got up early to get the last bit done on Thursday morning. I skeined and soaked it while handling some phone calls on Thursday and hung it to dry. Alas, I have no pictures (I promise I'll post some this week), but it did turn out beautifully, about 20 wpi and nearly 300 yards, and a gorgeous heathery purple color. The sad thing is that the yarn feels like it would be too stiff to make good socks. Sigh. I'm not sure if it's because the Wensleydale just isn't cut out to be good sock wool (it's a longwool, so on the coarser side), or if I overspun it to start; maybe if I hadn't spun it worsted? But woollen-spun yarn doesn't make for the best socks. In any case, I think it will make a lovely piece of lace, with really nice stitch definition, and it's already wound up in a ball, so I'll have to find the right pattern for it.

I also, during a number of very long and otherwise annoying meetings last week, finished Damson. I have (anyone care to guess what I'm going to say here?) no new pictures of that either, but I'm hoping to do a quick blocking tonight so I can wear it tomorrow. Just to remind you, it's this project:
I'm really happy with the way it turned out, and I think it's going to be the perfect spring shawlet. It's also the shape that I've recently come to appreciate most in neckwear: a shallow triangle that can be worn either as a small shawl, or wrapped multiple times around the neck as a scarf.

Part of the reason why my week was so rushed was because I knew that I had to be ready for another working weekend (warning: linguistics incoming). This past weekend, I took the girls with me up to Wonder Valley (east of Fresno, more or less; about a six-hour drive, depending on LA traffic) for a Master-Apprentice training. The Master-Apprentice program is one of my very favorite language revitalization programs (I'm biased), and I've been lucky enough to be involved with it, one way and another, since one of my graduate advisors first got me involved some fifteen years ago. I don't know if I've mentioned before, but California (prior to European contact) was one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world, with over 100 separate languages (plus their assorted dialects) spoken inside what are now the state borders. That's a lot. (Just FYI, there are about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today.) But, because of its long history of contact, fewer than 50 of those languages are still spoken today, and almost all of them have fewer than 10 speakers still living (many as few as one speaker), and most of those speakers are elderly.

So, Californians who wanted to revitalize their languages of heritage looked to successful programs around the world. Some of the most successful are the revitalization of Hebrew in Israel, Maori in New Zealand, Hawaiian in Hawai'i, and languages like Welsh and Irish in Britain and Ireland. In each of those situations, though, there was only one language upon which to focus available resources and (except for Hebrew, which is a different sort of case for a number of reasons), there were still (at the least) hundreds of speakers, many of whom were still relatively young (by which I mean 50s and 60s). Not so in California. So people here looked to those programs, and took their successes and adapted them. We couldn't easily credential elder speakers to work in classrooms, nor could they easily raise children in the language (obviously), and we couldn't count on university support to develop curriculum (languages like Maori and Hawaiian were taught as second languages in universities even before the language revitalization movements gained ground; that hadn't happened here), so the Master-Apprentice program was developed to recreate a natural learning situation between one elder speaker (a master) and one younger learner (the apprentice) who could then go on to teach the language to his or her children, and/or in classrooms.

It's not easy, though. Each pair has to essentially recreate, on an ongoing basis, an immersion situation within a speech community of two. And each apprentice has to willingly re-live the language acquisition process, going through all of those stages that each of us goes through in our first language(s) (read: sounding silly, getting words wrong, not being able to articulate the thoughts in our heads; much of that is very cute in young children, but doesn't feel so cute when one is an adult). So the program holds trainings, where we talk about how to create that immersion situation, how to leave English behind, how to work as a master to teach the language this way, and as an apprentice to learn it. But the trainings are always more than that.

Doing this kind of language work is almost impossible to describe to people who have never tried it, especially if they've never tried it with languages which are this endangered. It's one thing if I don't learn my mother's first language (French); I can count on all of those people in France to keep speaking it for me. But apprentices feel the ever-present weight of their community's expectations and desires, not to mention the weight of their own expectations, and those of their masters. And masters feel the pressure of knowing that if they do not successfully pass the language on to their apprentices, no one else can. These teams are brave in a way that I have rarely seen. So the trainings are a safe space to talk about that. To celebrate successes, and to grieve the difficulties. To talk about all of the reasons why each and every person involved in the program is sticking with it in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. They're also a place to laugh and cry, to tell stories happy and sad, and (this weekend at least) to learn some pretty fun traditional games (my face hurt with laughing by the end of Saturday).

It's an honor to be allowed to be involved, to have the participants make space for me as a linguist to be there, and to welcome my children with me. And it's unreal to see how much progress people have made since the program started. I know apprentices who are now masters of their own teams, who are raising their children using their languages of heritage as first languages in the home, who are teaching immersion techniques at these trainings themselves. I did part of the training on Saturday morning with a young woman who was about eight years old when I first met her, and who now is a fluent speaker of her language, working to take her tribe through the next steps of reclaiming their language as a community language for everyone.

Weekends like this remind me of why I do what I do, and of who and what matters in the process.

Now if only I'd remembered my camera...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let it snow!

Wow, I just disappeared there, didn't I? I was sure that I'd have time to put up a quick post before we left town last Saturday, something like:
but it didn't happen. And once we were in the mountains, I really didn't feel like facing a computer. So I pretty much didn't.

We left for Mammoth last Saturday, to spend spring break skiing and hanging out in front of a fire. I, of course, had my own packing priorities (it helps that my ski gear mostly lives in one place, so there was very little searching to be done):
That bag held a whole lot of goodies.
That's two spindles, three sock projects, a hat, two neckwarmers, and a shawlet. I actually was fully prepared to bring more, but decided, wisely, to leave the rest behind. It's probably just as well that I did, as I finished far less than I brought, and I didn't even touch the spindles (I'd forgotten, as I always do, how tired my hands are after a day of skiing the steeps -- it takes some serious pole-work to make those turns).

I did, however, finish a neckwarmer and an earwarmer (not enough yarn to make two neckwarmers). The neckwarmer is currently on Older Daughter's head (she likes it better to hold her hair back and keep her ears warm), but it's a wider version of this:
Isn't it cute? That's Mary Lou's new pattern, in Mini Mochi; I tossed the skein and pattern in at the last minute, and I'm so glad that I did. The pattern is such fun, and perfect for the long color changes in a yarn like Mini Mochi. I knitted madly on the neckwarmer all the way up on Saturday, and finished it and the earwarmer (for Younger Daughter) on Tuesday, which was our rest day.

That rest day actually turned out to be perfect timing. We skiied Sunday (which was Older Daughter's twelfth birthday; how did I get to be old enough to have a twelve-year-old daughter?), and it was an absolutely perfect day. I think Older Daughter felt that it was a good way to spend her birthday.
She looks pretty happy at the end of the day, doesn't she?

The snow was gorgeous, and the mountain was nearly deserted. I don't think Rick and I waited in line once all day. We skiied the top of the mountain, which wasn't even open the last time we went up, and the girls took a lesson. It always amazes me how happy I am to be back on skis. I took a skiing hiatus for a number of years, while I was pregnant, and the girls were little, and it surprised me utterly how comfortable I was the first winter we went back. I got those skis on my feet, and it was like my body remembered everything it had to know, how it feels to walk in ski boots, the moves that make it possible to stop suddenly, turning to face the top of the slope, the joy of speed. And this week, the snow was FAST. I like going fast.

(Does anyone remember this VW commercial from a few years ago? The first time Rick saw that fast sitting in the front seat, glowing malevolently, he took one look at me and broke up laughing. He didn't stop for a while. This might make even more sense if you know that his nickname for me for years was Mariana -- as in Mario Andretti. I like to go fast. Heh.)

We'd always planned to take Tuesday off, to put a break in the middle of four days of skiing, and our timing turned out to be perfect. Because on Tuesday, a storm blew in and dropped 18 inches of perfect powder all over Mammoth. And it got cold. It was down to about 4 degrees at night, which meant that the snow stayed light and fluffy. Younger Daughter spent some of the day outside, building snowmen and playing in the powder.
I stayed inside and knitted my Turkish socks.
(You can see there how ski boots chew up my ankles.) Aren't they gorgeous? And SO fun to knit!
I've changed them a bit, and I think these will fit my feet better than the original version. I'd forgotten how much fun two-stranded colorwork really is. It feels like it goes quickly, because I'm always motivated to finish just one more motif. Rick's very impressed with them, and has asked whether I'd knit him a sweater like this. The answer is yes, but most definitely NOT at this gauge (about 7.5 sts/in).

So there it is. A perfect week of skiing, almost no lines, plenty cold. I think that one of the best bits, for me and Rick, was seeing how much the girls enjoyed themselves. There's nothing more fun than seeing them become more and more confident, not only on skis, but just in general. At the end of each day, they were leading us to the runs they'd liked the best, poring over the map of the mountain and planning how to get to where they wanted to take us, which chair lifts to get on, and which runs to take.

On the third day, Older Daughter stayed with her lesson to ski with some new friends she'd made, and we took Younger Daughter off to ski with us. She was doing so well that I asked her if she wanted to ski down a black diamond run (an easy one, honestly), something she could brag about to her sister later. She thought about it, and said maybe not just yet, so we planned to take another way down. As we were skiing toward the lift, I heard this voice behind me saying, "Mama, I've reconsidered my decision." (Honestly, that's a quote. I about bust a gut trying not to laugh.) "I think I'd like to ski that black diamond." So we did. And she nailed it. Slow, but steady, and she was so proud of herself afterward, I thought she'd burst. I think this is what they mean when they say that sports are good for kids, especially girls, that they increase confidence and positive body-image and all of that.

Not to mention the fact that they're fun.
Top of the mountain, 11,000+ feet. (Rick and I kept having to pop our ears as we skiied up and down the 3,000 feet of vertical drop on the mountain.)
It was very cold, though. The last two days, all of the skiers on the mountain looked like bandits, with no bit of skin showing anywhere.
Our last day, the mountain was covered in absolutely stunning, completely untouched powder. And every skier wanted a piece of the untouched snow. As soon as the lifts opened to the top, it was like a land-grab, skiers making mad dashes for any untouched run they could find. Rick and I managed to bag first tracks on one of the bowls on the backside, and spent the rest of the day feeling quite smug about it. (Turns out, I'm not very mature at all about some things.) The snow was absolutely gorgeous, like skiing in clouds.

And now we're home. There's laundry to do, and a dog to walk, and a house to get ready for a new week. But it was so good to get away. I didn't fret about work, or about any of the things I've been spinning my wheels about lately. I didn't think about deadlines, or about anything more pressing than finding that new snow, making that next turn, catching that next ride up the mountain, and cheering the girls on as they skiied away down their runs.