Sunday, September 30, 2007

Recovery (picture heavy post)

Well, I made it. After posting on Friday, I finished my sabbatical application, got in the van, and went to pick up the dancers. The van:
Did I mention this thing was huge? From the inside looking back, it went on forever.
Big as it was, though, it barely fit everyone. To my great relief, I found the special back way that let me drive right up to the front of the building to drop everyone off (otherwise, it's five flights of stairs up), and we got there in good time. By that point, I'd been fretting non-stop (and losing sleep) for ages. About what to say to introduce everyone, about whether the dancers were going to be bored during the storytelling, about whether there'd be enough time for the storytellers to get their audio equipment going and to take it down, about whether the audience would stay past the intermission (and free pizza), about whether there'd be an audience at all (I can't tell you how embarrassing it would have been to have flown 11 people down here just so I could watch them dance). Fret, fret, fret.

Things went well. The dancers found the storytellers as entertaining as I do, and the kids loved them. There was, in fact, an audience (hence the kids). It wasn't huge, but the space was relatively small, and most of the seats were filled. There were some students, and my friends brought their families (none of them know I have a blog, but thank you, my friends!). I told everyone that the price of pizza was staying for the second half (I laughed while I said it, but you know the kind of laugh it was), and they did (I'm guessing they didn't need to be threatened). And then I introduced the dancers. I kept it very short, and Robert did an amazing job throughout the dancing of stopping now and then to explain what they were doing and why. It was absolutely perfect. And frankly, once the drum started, and the dancers came out with their bone flutes, nothing else really mattered.

The point of this kind of dancing is to sacrifice to the greater good. Robert explained to everyone (I'd known this, and I was glad he told them) that the dancing is meant to make the dancers work and sweat, to give something up for all the things that people get. And that the dancers do it for everyone. You get what you give, he says, and it's important to make a point of giving and not to just take from the world. He doesn't put it this way, but what I see when I see them dancing is something that I can only describe as purity of intention. These singers and dancers are completely and entirely there in the moment, and the energy they expend is awesome, in the true and older sense of the word. And it is clear watching them that they are doing it with joy and grace. In a world where everything is, at its core, energy, they are putting the best energy they can muster out there as a gift. And it truly was a gift. I stopped fretting. I stopped worrying. It was all good.

For me, being me, the hardest part of all of this was that I knew that the reason they were here giving this gift was because of me. Robert and I have been doing language work together now for years, and the folks in that group, whether they really know me or not, know who I am, and what we do. They've seen me around the reservation, at ceremonies, at people's houses. All of them said that they were happy to be there to do this for me. I am not very good at feeling worthy of that kind of effort. It feels like I am putting people to too much trouble, and that what I do is just what I do, not something that should haul 11 people from their homes and children, carrying regalia 600 miles to dance. So it is my tendency to feel guilty. I know I shouldn't. I know that when I do something requiring that kind of effort and time and (if I'm doing it as I should) purity of intention, I am doing it from love, and because I want to give something to someone who has given to me. In my case, it's usually cooking or knitting, creating something by hand to warm or nourish someone I care about. I enjoy thinking about that person and why I care about them while I'm creating; I feel that it puts the right kind of energy into the finished object. I think I was (and am) overwhelmed by the idea that these people were putting so much energy into something because to at least some degree, they feel that way about my work with their Tribe. It was truly a gift, and I came away from it feeling more whole and more taken care of than I had in a long time.

I tried to take pictures, but the dancers were (duh) moving (this being an inherent part of dancing); it was also fairly dim, and a flash would have really been disruptive. I eventually gave up because I prefer to experience something like this without a mitigating lens. Here are a few, though, to give you a sense (this is one of the few dances they do that it's possible to take pictures of):
Here they all are afterwards, out of regalia:
It was good.

I got up at 4:45 Saturday morning to get them all to the airport (after waking up every half hour most of the night to be sure I hadn't missed the alarm), and came home. Even after two cups of coffee, I fell over on the couch and slept for an hour. Then I woke up, realized that I had to return the van Right Now or I'd be charged for another day, and off we went. We stopped by the farmer's market on the way home, where I was seduced by the color and shine of these babies (and by a squash blossom quesadilla for breakfast, yum...):
It's not just yarn that sucks me in with its sheer beauty. Now I have to figure out how to make chiles rellenos. Hmmm...

Then I went back to sleep. I think I was just totally worn out with two weeks of planning and worrying, and trying to get everything else done while preparing for this week. I woke up to go to Tess' soccer game, which they won after a very rocky start (good job, baby!). And then home, to knit Kivrin's sock and finish Madhur Jaffrey's autobiography, Climbing the Mango Trees, which I highly recommend, and not just for the recipes at the end.

Kivrin's sock is done, and I have cast on for the second, thus attempting to circumvent the dreaded SSS:
It's my own pattern, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. I also entered a contest over at Adrienne's site; she's generously giving away STR and Tofusties (!!). Go see her, and tell her I sent you. Any woman who's willing to share good sock yarn deserves a hit.

Sorry for such a long post. I think I'm caught up now. And I promise, no more bitching.

Friday, September 28, 2007


The universe is definitely out to get me. No, I am not paranoid, I have evidence. To wit: after weeks of wishing that the weather would cool down, that we might even get, oh I don't know, rain down here in the desert-y part of the state, I woke up this morning and it was raining. Raining. On the day that I have spent weeks planning an event which is to take place OUTSIDE. In the rain.

Except not. After two fairly hysteric hours on the phone, post van pickup but prior to airport pickup, I have managed to find a space indoors on campus. It's not ideal -- the pizza that we are serving cannot be brought into the space, so we'll have to find a way to serve it between the two groups who are performing. And, of course, there's no walk-by traffic to build the audience. And, of course, it's not only too late to change the posters, but the university apparently has not a single A-frame available to post room-change signs on, and Facilities (which did not even bother to set up the chairs I'd ordered for Tuesday night's event in time for Tuesday night's event) set up the chairs for tonight's event in the rain this morning, and are charging me for them even though we aren't using them and didn't ask for them until 3:30 this afternoon, which would have been plenty of time to cancel the order.

This is the point when I have to consider the fact that the one common element in all of my life's latest disasters is: ME. I must have done something very wrong in a past life. Either that, or I've done something very wrong in this life that I have forgotten about. Either that, or (and this is a more hopeful interpretation) I'm PRE-paying for really good things to come. I like that idea best.

However, a very small hour and a half window has just opened up -- the dancers are at their hotel, fed and (I hope) happy. Rick has taken the girls to their piano lesson, which their teacher kindly agreed to schedule early so they can come tonight. I am alone (blessed solitude) in my house, and I intend to finish my sabbatical application so that maybe, mirabile, I can, after dropping everyone off at the airport at 6:00 tomorrow morning and divesting myself of the packing crate on wheels we're calling a 15-person passenger van, I can not work this weekend. Maybe the girls and I will bake. And make a vat of chili. And take a nap. Maybe (I might be getting too ambitious here) I'll find a recipe and buy the ingredients for mojitos and make myself one tomorrow evening. Yes. That's the plan, and I'm stickin' to it like glue.

P.S. Five minutes later. I take it all back. The postman just came up my driveway and dropped off this:
(no time to take a real picture and upload it; I'm using my mac's photobooth -- note the backwards writing) Do you see the lovely colors of this yarn? And the Asparagus Cable socks pattern from Wendy that I've been wanting since she wrote it? And the lovely wee stitch marker with knitting needles and a ball of yarn that Sheri included just because she's so nice? Am I a dork because I am so easily made happy? I think not.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are we there yet?

It's Thursday (I am known for my brilliant observational style -- can you see why?). This means that there is one more day to go for the week of California Indian Day, and then I go back to my usual overloaded working life, rather than the insanely overloaded working life of the past several weeks. Just so that the folks who told me to get hotel rooms for the dancers tomorrow night can feel good, I hereby report that when I told my friend this morning that we'd reserved four rooms for them, his immediate response was, "That's great!" Clearly, no need to worry. None.

I am busily downloading photos right now so that I can clear my camera's memory card so that I can take pictures of tomorrow night's dancing to post. I know it's not knitting, but it's very cool, and it's a big part of my life, so y'all just have to suck it up.

And speaking of dealing with my strangenesses, I have an exciting linguistic fact to share with you. As background, what is perhaps even more exciting is the fact that one of my students found this fact for me after I was sidetracked in class wondering about it. It has to do with the word penguin. We were transcribing it in class (there are some very interesting variations in pronunciation of that word depending on where you're from), and it occurred to me to wonder what language we borrowed it from. It's pretty clearly not Germanic. Well, it turns out (I am so charmed by this fact I can't stand it), that it comes from Welsh. Welsh! I mean, really. The original Welsh was pen gwyin, meaning "white head", and it was used to refer to the auk (I was very glad to find that out, because I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the Welsh had a word for penguins; my worldview was becoming somewhat upset). This is right up there with finding out, when I was giving a paper in Wales, that the elves in the Lord of the Rings movies are speaking (wait for it) Welsh! Who knew? (Besides every Welsh speaker in the world, of course.)

Now, while I admit not everyone would find the etymology of the word "penguin" as exciting as I do (I truly love the Welsh, and the fact that they gave us such a cool word just confirms their niftyness in my opinion), what's really cool about this is that it means that I've started to suck my students in. In my grammar and syntax class the other day, one student asked about the structure of something another professor had said in lecture (she admitted to being rather embarrassed to have been paying attention to verb forms rather than the lecture, given the innate dorkiness of doing such a thing, but was too curious not to ask; this is as it should be). She actually had nailed the analysis all on her own, too. More and more, they're raising their hands and saying, "I noticed the other day that X was saying Y, and I was wondering why they would do that?" Yes, little observant social scientists in the making. THIS is why I teach. (That, and the hope that someday linguists will rule the world, but that's another story.)

OK, in order to keep this from being a completely knitting-free post, I present you with pictures of my stash bowl. This is where I keep the yarn that I can't bear not to be looking at (the rest of it hides in two big wicker baskets under a coffee table). I just switched out some of the more summery colors for those that are more fall-like. The picture isn't great (the light in my house is either nonexistent or blazing, neither of which is great for pictures). Nevertheless:
This is that same photo without flash:
I'm not sure either one really gets to the beautiful peachy colors of the Nature's Palette sock yarn there on the right, but that's my next pair of socks (Falling Leaves from the Favorite Socks book) just waiting to happen. Aren't they all lovely? Doesn't looking at them just make you happy?

P.S. Thanks so much for the encouraging comments yesterday, I really needed them. I'm still a bit fragile, but I can see that things will get better, and that until they do, I'll be all right.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hump day

Well, on Monday night, I started something new. Here it was Tuesday morning.
I needed to knit something simple and soothing. Something requiring no thought, but interesting enough to keep me from hating it. Something that would show evidence of success pretty quickly (I really need to feel like I'm achieving something these days). A sock seemed like the right thing to do. I had some yarn left over from Tess' Millicents, and from my Traveller's Stockings, and it was clearly Kivrin's turn for socks (and I ordered a skein of sock yarn for me from The Loopy Ewe and felt the need to use some of the yarn I already have before anything new arrived), so I cast on. By the end of the evening, I'd gotten through the picot edging (my very first picot ever), and chosen a little bit of lacework for the sides.

After last night, and a meeting this morning, here's where I'm at:
(please excuse the sockpuppet nature of this photo; I'm not sure the one where I tried the phone inside the sock is any better, but you can sort of see where I'm going here; the toe will also be in the STR yarn -- the blue is Cherry Tree Hill...)
OK, I'm not much of a photographer. These days, I'm not feeling like much of anything -- writer, researcher, knitter, mother, wife. I'm in what my mom would call a weepy mood. So, until it goes away, I will keep knitting on this sock. And when I'm done, I will have something that my younger daughter can wear on her feet. And it will be good.

Monday, September 24, 2007


First off, it is so nice to know that I'm not the only person out there with latent antisocial tendencies! Both Anne and Janice said that they prefer hotel rooms after travelling and spending time with people; I thought I was the only person who, at the end of the day, really prefers to just be left alone. Therefore, assuming that funds come through for the hotel rooms for the dancers on Friday night, I will take the funder up on that, and drive everyone to a hotel nearby (this also means an average of one bathroom for four people, instead of one per six -- who can resent that?). I will call today to find out what we'd be on the hook for, price-wise.

This morning has been a morning of small and unexpected gifts. Usually on Monday mornings (and by usually, I mean in the past couple of weeks since the girls started school, so don't go thinking I'm all virtuous or anything), I meet a friend of mine to walk at 8:00. This is the time that she drops her kids off at school, and it means I have to get the girls to school a half an hour early, since their day doesn't start until 8:30. This isn't usually too big a deal, since it means more play time with their friends, but it does require a bit of an effort for all of us to get moving on a Monday morning.

So, this morning, we hustled ourselves, got lunches packed, convinced Kivrin that her stomach didn't really hurt (a long story for another time, and something that's fretting me), fed the pets, and loaded up the girls and the dog. We hit the road, and then hit a roadblock, in the form of the new railroad crossing that's going in. The bars were down, lights flashing, bells dinging, and a very tiny little maintenance train came by. The workmen with the stop signs walked away, leaving the bars down, the lights flashing, and the bells ringing inexplicably for five minutes during which nothing came by, at which point, equally inexplicably, everything stopped, and traffic was allowed to resume its normal flow. That was when I called my friend and left a message to tell her I'd be a few minutes late.

At three minutes before 8:00, my friend called me back to tell me that she wouldn't be walking this morning, since her daughter, who'd been sick all weekend, wasn't going to school. I understand about sick kids, and needing to cancel, but I would have wished she'd told me fifteen minutes earlier, when we were still at home, and I could have had a cup of coffee before leaving the house. Alas.

Of course, there I was, dog and all, so I headed for the nearest trail -- when in doubt, get the feet on dirt. It was a lovely morning. The sun was out, and the air was cool. By the time I'd gotten along a ways, I was in a better mood, and figuring that if I had to be ditched without coffee, at least I had my dog and could go for a walk. That was when I rounded a corner and saw a blue heron sitting in an oak tree next to the trail, bearded and dignified, surveying his world. I greeted him politely, and he in turn deigned not to fly away as we passed. In fact, he was still there when we came back. A small gift, and one which pretty much made my morning 100% better.

On top of that, Kia was feeling energetic and happy this morning as we walked. She'll be 13 years old this winter, and we've been walking together for 12 1/2 of those years. She's been my pace-setter all of that time; when she's jogging, her legs in merry contralateral motion, I know I'm going fast enough. When she slows down and starts to pace, the legs on each side moving together, I know it's time to pick it up. She goes off-leash, because she always comes to heel when someone goes by, and when we're alone, she jogs ahead, one ear up, and one ear down, jauntily trailblazing along. Even now, when she's stiffer than ever and slowing down, she's always up to go out with me, whatever the weather, wherever we go. As old as she is, each walk we have together is a gift, and I intend to enjoy every one.

Last but not least, I am actually (yes, this is me) sending not only the washcloths I promised Janice, but also (gasp!) the scarf that I knitted for my advisor when she retired this past spring, which has been sitting on Rick's desk waiting for me to send all this time (post office issues). (I also included a wee giftie for Janice in her package; I figure I should share the joy while I've got it.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Wow, can you believe Kelp! put me in the 12th Yarnival? A very kind thing to do. Rick was a bit surprised to find himself nominated the hunk of that issue of Yarnival (go, baby!), but has decided to be provisionally flattered (I explained to him that knitters have very good taste, and it is definitely a compliment). Thanks everyone who read and commented on that post -- I really appreciate it (and especially thanks for the good info on Kitchener; at some point, the issue just must be resolved so we can give credit where credit is due -- can you imagine socks pre-grafting?!).

We have had some interesting avian goings-on in our yard this afternoon; two red-shouldered hawks have been going at it with a murder of crows. One hawk will fly to a telephone pole and sit, screaming defiance at the world, whilst crows fly around, cawing their corbae brains out. Then, the hawk will fly to a tree, and sit there, shouting "mine! mine!" while the crows land on the telephone pole and laugh. Then they swap. This has been going on, loudly, for hours. The other hawk sits on various branches, supportively adding to the cacophony. It's freaking the cats out no end. I tried very hard to get a picture, but a hawk on a telephone pole looks like a brown lump through my camera, and do you have any idea how fast those babies fly?! So, no go. Rick suggested I record how they sound, but I'll spare you that.

P.S. Submit to Yarnival! The next one is being hosted by Stitch 'n Sue, and she's got a link for submissions there.


So, remember Friday? Day of hope, Kauni looking like this:
Then, I sat through five hours of meetings (truly, I am not kidding or exaggerating here -- five), and, whilst I didn't take another picture afterwards, imagine another two beautiful, clearly defined squares on top of what you see in that picture.

I took it home. I looked at it. The squoodgy, smooshy, foggy bit looked a lot more smudged by comparison to clean-cut, delineated squares both top and bottom. I look at it some more. I looked at the picture on the pattern, I went on Ravelry and looked at every single Kauni project there (btw, everyone -- nice work!). None of them had smudgy bits. Mine most definitely did. My bubble burst, and I realized I was going to be seriously bothered by the smudgy bits. A decision was made. By the end of the evening, it was back down to the checkerboard, and one set of squares. Weep.

Rick was a huge help here. I think this might have been strategic. We've been dealing in mutual annoyance for the past little bit (a lot of overwork is contributing to this). But his engineering soul was engaged in the problem of figuring out how to line up a new set of colors so that I'd have a maximum chance of avoiding this problem again (I just don't think I could face it). So we sat on the couch, Kauni on my lap, surrounded by balls of yarn, and plotted. Then, (and here's the bit where I'm pretty sure he was trying to mitigate annoyance) together we ripped. He managed one ball of yarn, and I managed the other (he is a Master Knot Wrangler, fifth rank, after years of kite flying and sailing), and after an hour of work, my hours of work were gone (weep). Also at least a large part of the annoyance -- it's hard to stay annoyed at a person who willingly sits on a couch playing with yarn and saying consoling things during the process of ripping out my heart -- oops, I mean my knitting.

I couldn't post about this yesterday, the pain was too fresh (just kidding, I was actually really busy). But now I can say that I have joined the yarn of one ball in such a way that the color change continues to flow without abrupt shifts, and I have finished one set of squares, and the colors are resolutely staying away from each other, as they should. I know that, after another five or six hours of work when I'm back where I started, I'll be glad I did this.

On better fronts, Tess' soccer team won resoundingly yesterday (4-0). It has been so much fun to watch them play this season (it's also great fun to watch Rick coach -- he's doing an amazing job with them). In spite of the fact that, for the first three games, they had only 0-1 substitute (instead of the 3-4 they were supposed to have), they played their hearts out, and even won one of those games. In some ways, I think that they came together as a team because of it (they were all playing all the time out there on the field). And now, watching them play is pure pleasure -- they're really looking good (note: this is also by comparison to the years when I was watching them play four on four, in a version of soccer that really didn't look very soccer-like at all). Tess is seriously considering trying out for the competitive team next year; she wanted to do it this year, but said that her big regret about playing rec was that her dad had never coached her -- Rick took that hit for us, and saved us the driving and expense of competitive for another year. I'm not sure she was ready this year, but the way she's going, she might be next year.

Yesterday was productive in terms of getting ready for the invasion on Friday night (assuming it happens; there may actually be enough funding leftover to get some hotel rooms -- would that be inhospitable of me? I keep thinking it would be, and then people point out that more bathrooms is never a bad thing. This is true. Whaddaya think?). I cleaned and vacuumed the living room, kitchen, and dining room (this sounds so impressive, until I tell you that they are, for all intents and purposes, one big room -- as a complete aside, my students now habitually write that phrase as "for all intensive purposes"; language change in progress). Also, the kids' playroom and the guest room. Today is for the den and our room, and then things will be in order, assuming we can convince the kids not to move for the next five days.

I'm in a good mood because I am caught up on grading and class prep, at least for this week, and therefore don't feel compelled to work today. I also have been getting enough sleep, which means that tomorrow can be a very productive day, which helps with the not feeling compelled to work at home today thing. If Rick gets my bike fixed and the rain holds off, we might even get a family ride in. Now, if I could only stop lying awake at night before I go to sleep, worrying about what needs to get done in the next two weeks, that would be good. Maybe it's time to invest in a nice bottle of Talisker for some small sipped prior to sleeping. Heh.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Quick update

The Kauni colors are finally starting to separate again; watching this has been like watching a photo finish in the Tour de France -- will they come apart, will they stay together until the end, what will happen next?! However, we have finally achieved separation (I'm clearly anticipating the trip to Houston I have to make next month), and all is well again. I'm still a little peeved by the section where the pattern doesn't really show, but I'm telling myself it's subtle. Yeah, subtle (and no, I do not need my bubble burst, thank you very much).
I am quite enamoured of the inside, as well. I think that the tension is looking pretty good (especially considering that my previous stranded colorwork experience has consisted of knitting exactly 3/4 of one mitten). I think I can tolerate bubble-bursting here, if anyone has comments or suggestions.
I haven't touched the Boudica socks lately, since I've been waiting with bated breath to see what this sweater was going to do, and finishing washcloths (which will, universe willing, be mailed to Janice today). I think I'm going to go by my LYS this afternoon to get yarn for me and Tess to knit Red Scarves. It's hard to imagine leaving Kauni for the time necessary to knit a scarf, but I'll just have to manage. At least I have a 2 1/2 hour meeting this afternoon that is knitting-compatible. Woot!

I'd planned a longer post today, about privilege and having to see oneself through others' eyes. I'm not sure I'm up to writing it quite yet (and that pile of grading is not getting any smaller). The short of it is that one of the people I do fieldwork with is bringing 11 dancers down here to dance on our campus next Friday night for California Indian Day. This is extremely exciting (although I'm already lying awake in bed at night, trying to figure out how I'm going to introduce them, what I'm going to feed them, what I'll do with them between the airport and the performance, ad nauseum). They'll probably stay in my house Friday night, and that's where the privilege comes in, because the fact is that, by the standards of most folks living on a reservation, I am extremely privileged. I know this. Feeling grateful for what I have gets me through a lot of things in life. But it is a strange thing to see my life through the eyes of others. I have visited some of these dancers in their homes, and stayed with one of them several times, and I want very much to reciprocate that hospitality. This is not a bad situation, just a bit strange; it's a mirror thing, you know? Like the time I was working with a speaker and her granddaughter started reading my fieldnotes about going to a ceremony, and I was watching her, as she, essentially, watched me through my notes, watching the event. It's a part of being an anthropologist that I think is more honest than the distanced observer, but it's always an exposed feeling. Of course, it's only fair to disrupt the studier/studied position as often and as explicitly as possible, but that doesn't make it less strange.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Goodbye, Robert Jordan

I found out that Robert Jordan just died this week, at 58, after a long hard fight. He wrote the Wheel of Time series (among many other things).

I feel differently about this news than I did when I heard about Madeleine L'Engle. When I heard that she'd died, I felt sad in a somewhat selfish (and unrealistic) way, in that I would have liked to have met her -- I think I would have liked her very much personally. I don't know that I would have gotten along with Jordan personally (I don't think I ever really thought about it), but I know I would get along with his characters, and that's saying something.

Whatever I think I would have felt about him upon meeting him personally, I owe him a debt of gratitude for writing books that I thoroughly enjoyed every time I read them (and some of them I read a number of times). His characters are real; if Heinlein was right, and there is a world where fictional characters live beyond their authors because of the love and loyalty of their readers, then Jordan's characters are there. His world was so detailed and so well put together, that it feels like a place that I could go visit anytime, like it exists outside of its books. To be able to conceive and convey like that is a form of magic for which I have a deep respect. I can't imagine being able to write like that; hell, I can't even convey what my real world is like with any grace or style -- I can't imagine creating a world first and THEN having to tell people about it. I know that his work will be missed by thousands of people, many of whom will now try to figure out what was going to happen in the last book of the series. Whoever tries to finish it, I know it won't be the same without his authorial love for his world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baby steps

I am slowly feeling better. This cold, though, is causing that sort of lingering fatigue that makes it hard to get moving. I'm skipping lunchtime yoga today. Part of me feels bad, but most of me feels like I don't need to work that hard (Ashtanga is great, but not when you're exhausted). I think a walk with Kivrin and Kia tonight while Rick and Tess are at soccer will be a much better thing.

I am also slowly getting some knitting done. I have finished some washcloths to send to Rabbitch for her pile, and I'll actually try to get to the post office to do that this Friday. This is the hardest step for me -- I truly hate going to the post office. I'm not sure what it is, but I have so much trouble with it that I have STILL not sent the scarf that I knitted for my former advisor for her retirement party in June (the knitting was done on time, but I couldn't face the post office). I also seem to have trouble wrapping things; I have three different belated birthday presents in my house right now that only await wrapping. What IS it with me? However, the post office it is on Friday, and I will be mailing the scarf at the same time. And, now that I've finished knitting the washcloths, the plan for tonight is to weave in the ends, and to wrap everything that needs to be wrapped, instead of knitting on Kauni, which I had set aside to finish these. Oh, do you want to see the washcloths? Here they are:
Pretty, no? I love yellow and blue. They always make me feel cheerful.

Other than that, things are quiet. So little to post about (other than griping about the insanity that is my work for the next several weeks, and I think that we've had more than enough of that, thank you very much). I'll try to be interesting today so I have something to say tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Brighter Monday

First, thanks to everyone who weighed in on the ripping question. It's nice sometimes to be given permission to do what I want to do, which in this case was to not rip. I really appreciate the support.

So, I did not in fact rip. I also didn't knit Kauni at all yesterday. Instead, I played with washcloths. I have a few to send to Rabbitch for her collection for a women's shelter, but when I looked at them I realized that they were much smaller than I'd remembered. Sort of embarrassing really. So, I'm pounding out a few more this week. It's a rather relaxing sort of knit, really, and I'm hoping to have at least a few to send with the teeny ones; maybe they can go together in pairs; you know, one for washing the body, one for washing something smaller, like say, a nose.

I did actually make it through most of my list yesterday. The laundry all got done (except the beach towels, but it's not like we have time to go to the beach anytime soon!). Including clean, matching (!!) sheets for everyone. A miracle. I got a small nap, I read my two articles, I made soup for rush dinners this week, and I roasted the tomatoes that Rick got at the market on Saturday. I read some nice relaxing trash, and folded the laundry (I know, who am I?). And I finished the shopping. Oh, and returned late library books, paid my fines, and checked out new books with the girls. It's amazing how much better it feels when things at home, at least, are calm.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. Work is still total chaos. In the less than two weeks before October first, I need to finish planning (and execute) all of the events for California Indian Day (which, the way it happens here, is really California Indian WEEK), write a sabbatical application, get together a final draft of the center proposal, edit a paper with a co-author that needs to get out, make it through several meetings of various sorts, and prep this darned new class. And grade. Right, don't forget the grading.

However, being able to see an end date really helps. Knowing what I really want to get out of each of these things also really helps, since it keeps me from doing more than I'm willing to do to get that result. I just have to hang on to my "no", y'know? I am resolved to be a bit more cheerful about it all, and to at least attempt to take care of myself while I struggle through. Blog a little, read other people's blogs, knit. Walk with friends (I have three walks and a yoga class scheduled with folks this week; I'm so much less likely to cancel when I can tell myself that I'm supporting someone else's mental and physical health than when I'm just supporting my own. Sad, but true. At least by recognizing my psychoses I can trick myself into moving in the right direction, right?). Eat well. Read with the girls. And, happily, my two big meetings this week are both knitable, so that will help a ton.

In the end, the big stuff is good. The girls are happy. Rick is managing his insane work stuff. The weather is (finally!) cooler -- fog this morning, yay! The vet says that my adored dog is doing very well for a 12 and a half year old shepherd mix (we're trying to dodge the old age bullet as long as we can), and the new kitten is starting to let me sleep most of the night. And, best of all, I don't have to rip the Kauni. How good is that?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

To rip or not to rip

that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of colors gone wonky, or... OK, I've lost it, but you get the picture. I should say at the outset that I am inclined not to rip, but I am happy for input from any and all.

Here's the problem. I'm knitting merrily along on Kauni. Getting a row done here and another two there, generally feeling pretty good (I know that this is not killer progress by the standards of many knitters, but remember, sweaters are my nemesis, so I'm feeling pleased with any progress at all). I even started two-handed knitting (!!), and I'm kind of wondering whether I might start doing the left-handed yarn-control gig more often. As I knit, I take great pleasure in wondering which colors are going to come up next, so I look at those happy cakes of yarn I created to try to predict. And I tell you, I saw it coming: orange. Orange on the left side, orange on the right. And apparently, I'm the clown in the middle who is going to be wearing a sweater with one pattern repeat that isn't particularly distinguishable, because both balls came up orange. See for yourself:
See there at the top, where the pattern sort of fades out? That's not just overexposure because I'm taking the picture with the camera in my computer on the bar in my kitchen because I'm too darned lazy to wait for my camera to upload new photos (wow, I am SO going to make my students draw a sentence tree for that one!). That's orange, and lots of it. Of course, if I rip it back, I have to decide where in one of my balls of yarn I'm going to start, and worry about whether the colors will just come together again later. I'm tempted to stay with it as it is (the colors on one ball are moving towards yellow, and the other is headed for purple, so my torment should end soon). The whole point of this sweater was to mindlessly enjoy the color changes, taking what comes, even if I would never usually choose to juxtapose, say, purple and green. Or orange and, well, orange. Besides, after the week I've had, I don't think I can bear negative progress.

I'm having a similar dilemma with the Boudica socks. I think they're going to be too big around the arch of my foot. The question there is, rip and start over, or decrease now and figure that this is a custom fit, since my feet are, frankly, some of the widest feet ever across the ball (strange-looking, but very useful in doing balancing poses in yoga). I'm leaning towards the decrease option, not only because of the negative progress issue, but also because casting on for toe-up socks isn't my favorite thing to do. (Note the avoidance issues here; I'm trying to limit them to non-vital areas of my life, and I figure knitting is one of those -- no-one is going to die if my socks are a bit too big.)

So, on other fronts. The book club I belong to, in an attempt to make up for a run of books that we all, frankly, hated (the last one was so bad -- and by a nobel-prize winning author, no less! -- that I could NOT make myself read more than 120 pages, and I bitterly resented almost every one of those; I kept waiting hopefully for someone to kill off the main character -- I only found out later that someone does, at about page 200), has chosen to go a slightly different route, and we're reading The Golden Compass. We were all dithering, until I said (I've read the book before, but not for years -- since it came out), "I just want to LIKE a main character", and everyone said, "We'll like her, really?" and the vote was in. Is that sad? So, having seen the "find your daemon" function on Anne's blog, I told the group about it, and we've all agreed to find out before our next meeting, and then try to match daemons to members. My whole family did it, and it was kind of fun. Rick's is a spider (very much matches his engineering soul), Tess is a gibbon, and Kivrin is a hare. I put mine up on the blog for a while, for fun (a snow leopard), since no one in the group knows I have a blog and so won't find out before our next meeting. In any case, it's nice to look forward to reading a book for this group for a change.

Right now, I'm in mindless reading mode; it's good to get away from real life by reading a book where you can count on the author making everything come out right in the end. I'm also waiting for an order from Amazon -- I had to get a present for someone, and decided that, since I had free shipping, I should just get the EZ book I've been wanting, right? Maybe it'll come today...

I'm trying to enjoy my day at home, after this past week of hideousness. I spent several hours yesterday napping; I think I'm fighting off a head cold, and being stressed and losing sleep isn't helping (my big one right now is figuring out how I'm going to sleep 12 extra people in my house for one night, plus getting them all to and from the airport -- especially since we have to leave for the airport at 4:45 on a Saturday morning, and I just don't feel like I can ask many people to help with that!). So, this morning Rick kindly let me sleep in ('til 8:30 -- oh joy!; he even killed and cleaned up the ants who had invaded the pet food -- good man), and when I got up, I made cinnamon rolls.
They weren't pretty (they're a quick-bread version I found in the latest Fine Cooking, and the dough was a bit stickier than I'd anticipated), but clearly no one minded particularly. They're mostly gone now. The plan for the day: read two articles to prep for class; do laundry; make some soup for dinners during the week; roast some tomatoes to freeze; take a nap; knit a few more rows of Kauni to see what colors come up. Maybe read a little more mindless trash. Does this sound good?

Yes, it does.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stayin' alive

I made it through yesterday's meetings. Whew! It really did feel like a long day, and, even harder for me, a day filled with people. Don't get me wrong, I like people quite a lot. And I enjoy spending time with them. And then I need to be alone to recover.

Turns out that I am an introvert at heart. I have friends who insist I am not (and what's up with that -- telling me I'm wrong about my understanding of myself?!), since I like people and find them interesting and inspiring; funny thing is, the times I've taken a Myers-Briggs test, I've been rated an INFJ, the description of which includes the observation that folks who fall into this category enjoy people, but need time alone. In the end, I am renewed by being alone. I have friends who tell me that being alone exhausts them, that they need to be around other people to relax. I believe them, but I don't understand it. I find other people tremendously interesting and invigorating, but unless I get some alone time, I end up feeling overwhelmed and raw, like my skin is sunburned.

This is all by way of saying that yesterday wasn't just exhausting because I was in classes or meetings straight through until 7:00 in the evening, but because I was with people straight through until 7:00 in the evening. Sigh... However, it was a productive day, and it needed to be done, so that's good.

And then I got to go home, and my husband and kids were waiting for me, as was my new ballwinder! Boy, talk about the ultimate in soothing activities -- even though I didn't have to, I wound the yarn for the Kauni, just because it makes such pretty rainbows when it's in its little squared-off wound-up balls. I also figured out how to solve the problem of having part of a purl stitch show through when you switch from one color to another and from knit to purl at the same time. Basically, I just have to knit an entire row with the new color pattern, and then switch over to purl for the relevant squares. If you do that, you get this:
(see the pretty balls of yarn? aren't they lovely?) Am I the only person who is tremendously entertained by watching the colors of the yarn chase each other around? By waiting to see which colors will end up next to each other? Sometimes it's nice not to have to make those choices, and just to wait and see what will happen, and I think that this sweater is going to be the ultimate in just watching the beauty unfold.

One of my intents in choosing to knit this sweater was to learn to handle yarn in both my right and left hands (I knit with the yarn in my right hand), so that I could have both colors going at once without the constant picking up and putting down of yarn. So far, though, I have not felt like dealing with the awkwardness of handling the yarn lefthanded (even though I am a lefty -- I just learned the other way); my excuse is that I would not only have to knit with the yarn in my left hand, but also (gasp) purl that way, and that it's just too much to ask of any one person. Really, though, I'm feeling like I'm facing enough challenges and new things in my life this week, and picking up and putting down yarn is less stressful than feeling awkward while doing one of the few things that I am comfortable doing right now. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The horror

This is just a quick, pictureless post, to say that I've cast back on for Kauni (yay!). I'm only one row in, and I almost forgot that I was alternating between knit and purl because I was so focused on alternating colors (clearly an eat and chew gum kind of thing). But, about 12 stitches into the row, I remembered, tinked back, and all is back on track. Don't get me wrong, one row really looks rather pitiful, but it's something.

I worked at home all day today. Here's the bummer about working at home; there are no meetings to knit in. So, knitting during the day requires a purposeful finding of time and justifying the move away from the computer. Note: reading knitting blogs does not seem to require this justification and can proceed apace as a form of procrastination (which reminds me: no one was posting today! it was KILLING me! where IS everyone?). Worse yet, when there are crises, they take place as email bombs, which then require lots of emailing back, none of which leaves hands free for knitting. I tried and tried to get people on the phone -- I even got my headset out, which I hate -- just so I could knit already people, but no go. So, stressful day, lack of knitting.

And here's the true horror. Tomorrow, I have not one, not two, not three, but four, count 'em FOUR meetings to go to, and not one of them, not a single one, is a meeting at which I can knit.

A moment of silence, if you please.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Birth and death

Last night, I went to see a friend of mine who was acting in a performance of Karen Brody's play Birth. I mostly went for my friend; I probably wouldn't have taken the time otherwise, but I'm really glad that I did. I tend to avoid anything that seems to me that it will be a politicization of birth and motherhood, mostly because, in my experience, such events involve proselytization of a correct way to do things. I may piss some people off here, but I firmly believe that there is no one right way to do birth and mothering (and, more generally parenting). I think there are some ways that are wrong, but there is definitely more than one right way.

So, the best part of this play from my perspective is that it wasn't advocating any particular right way to do birth, rather (and this is only my interpretation), it seemed to be saying that mothers should be central to the birth experience, and that their experience should be nurturing, whatever nurturing may be for them. Of course, what each of us needs to feel cared for is intensely personal and individual; inherently, there is no one way to do it. I found that message to mesh tremendously well with my own sense of how birth should go, and it was nice to see it right out there. It was particularly interesting, in an audience full of midwives and pregnant women to see the reaction to the character who chose two planned c-sections for her births, with no regrets, and to the character who chose epidurals. Their support seemed less strong to me than that for those characters who chose to, or who came to an appreciation for, a birth which did not involve such interventions. All I could hope was that those members of the audience saw that the horror stories in the play were not necessarily the story of a c-section, but the stories of those characters whose birth experiences were entirely out of their hands, whose friends and families and doctors did not honor their sense of what was going on for them in the moment. It was well done, and I'm very glad I went.

I was especially glad because it was a nice reminder of the starting part of life (as well as of the births of my daughters, which are very good memories for me). It was a contrast to what I'd found out the day before in Anne's blog (yes, I admit that I tend to avoid the news on weekends, so I probably would have missed this for a few days otherwise), which is that Madeleine L'Engle had passed away. While, as I said to Anne, it is not possible to call her death at the age of 88 after a long and well-lived life a tragedy, it nevertheless felt like a personal loss to me. I credit her descriptions of loving and very human families with keeping me sane and well at times when my family was not so functional. I'm glad I knew her through her books.

In keeping with the theme for this post, I have both started and frogged Kauni in the past 24 hours. I got my 252 stitches cast on, and knitted three rows before realizing what any knitter worth her salt could have predicted; without doing at least some ribbing at the beginning, all I was gonna get was curl. Grrr...
I was focused on not ribbing both because I don't want the bottom of this pullover to pull in, and because I'll be doing a checkerboard pattern for the bottom, rather than the alternating color stripes that generally go with ribbing. It just about killed me, but here's where I am with the sweater now:
Alas, and alack. So, I think what I'll need to do is to always purl one of the colors in the checkerboard and knit the other (ya think this is why the person I saw who'd done checkerboard patterning did it that way? ya think? man, you'd also think I'd learn...). So, here I go again. The good bit is that I didn't like starting with purple and orange together as much as I'd thought I would, so I'm going to try purple and green. We'll see.

The Boudica sock, however, continues apace. Note the two circulars instead of four dpns. I'm giving it a shot; who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
(But you can't always make her like them.)

Friday, September 7, 2007


I started another pair of socks last night. (I feel like I should belong to some support group, y'know "My name is Jocelyn, and I just can't stop knitting socks.") They're Miriam Felton's Boudica socks; the pattern comes as part of a kit from Wooly Wonka Fibers, and while I tend to prefer to buy yarn myself rather than taking what comes with a kit, I'm really very happy with this yarn. It's very springy, which I like, and quite fine. I'm knitting these on size 0 dpns, which I haven't used for a whole pair of socks before. In fact, I'm considering getting two size 0 circulars and giving the knitting socks on circulars thing a try. Opinions out there? I've been a committed dpn user before this (so committed, in fact, that I demanded -- in the most civilized possible way -- a pair of bronze Celtic Swan dpns for Christmas, and I love them; I will make insane adjustments to be able to knit a pair of socks on size 1 needles just so I can use them). Anyway, I got through the toe, and am now setting up for the side cable. Progress looks small, but toe-up socks are not my thing, and the starting was a bit rough. In fact, I fudged a bit and used an Eastern cast-on instead of a provisional cast-on, which I'd never done before, and which I didn't feel like dealing with.
The sock is being modelled by my seed pot from New Mexico. It's a very small one, but the essence of the seed pot is to build a pot with only a very tiny hole at the top to put seeds or beans into for the next year's planting. Then mice and other scavengy beasts can't get in, and when you want your seeds for next year, you can break the pot and get them out, all safe and sound. There is something that impresses me immensely about small daily evidences of human ingenuity, of the many ways that people have found to deal with their environments, and when I saw this pot (it's my favorite blackware, too), I just had to have it. I've filled it with beans, and rattle it when I need to feel soothed. I guess it really goes with socks, no? Small evidences of human ingenuity.

Last night, my latest exciting, nerve-wracking purchase arrived in the mail:
Yarn for the Kauni sweater (you can download the pattern for free in English). I got the yarn from Astrid's Dutch obsessions. It's here at work with me. This is not because I need to carry it everywhere with me (but look at those colors!), but because this yarn carpooled with the yarn for a friend who is also going to knit Kauni. Between us, we saved on shipping from Holland, and got seven skeins instead of four each (which is more than one needs for the sweater; you really need three and a half). She and I just spent a pleasurable half hour splitting one ball and seeing which colors we wanted to start with. They're all the same, but the colors start in different places in each ball. I'm planning to knit this as a v-neck pullover, rather than as a cardigan. We'll see how this all goes; the pattern is very Zimmerman-esque in that it assumes a great deal of knowledge on the part of the knitter (none of this step-by-step handholding), and I mostly feel like I am not a very knowledgeable knitter. In order to encourage self-discipline, I've promised myself that I can go get the needles for it if and only if I get through two piles of grading. Oy.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Late night math

First, let me start by saying that I love my husband. I really do (in spite of that little comment on Anne's blog yesterday about being willing to trade him for her new scarf; I can only plead temporary insanity brought on by a surfeit of gorgeous knitting). That said, however, he still occasionally does things that are enough to make even the most patient person (which I have never claimed to be) go batty.

To wit (you saw this coming, did you not?): It's just before 10 last night. I'm tired, but I'm at a crucial point in putting Kivrin's sweater together on one needle. I've finished the Millicent socks, have knitted the second sweater sleeve to a length which matches the first, and am ready to knit the new sleeve onto a circular needle with the fronts, back and first sleeve so I can start the yoke. I look at what's on the circular needle: right front, 20 stitches, check; right sleeve, check; back, check. Being wise, I had set myself up so that I was at the right place to just put the second sleeve on. But, the "right place" I've got is much more than 20 stitches from the end of the left front side. I count again. Yup, 20 stitches for the right front, then the sleeve, back, and a whole bunch more than 20 for the left front. OK, time to check math. If the body was 116 stitches, divided by four (one quarter for each front and half for the back), then each front should be 29 stitches. Cursing my past self, I tink back over the stitches for the back, tink the first sleeve back onto a dpn, tink the held stitches back onto the circular, and knit an extra nine stitches. I then prepare to knit the sleeve back onto the dpn. I am halfway through the sleeve when it hits me: somewhere in there, I need to put stitches onto the stitch holder for the armpit, and moreover, those stitches have to come out of my 29 + 58 + 29 count. This would, of course, explain why I did not have 29 stitches in the right front half to start with (turns out my past self was much smarter than my present self).

Now, in my defense (because I know you were all thinking things like "stop! your math is all wonky" from the very beginning), I had just made it through a day which involved packing lunches, getting the kids to school, buying snacks for the older one's classroom, sitting through office hours, a Senate meeting, more meetings, gotten the girls to soccer practice, out for pizza, and into bed; I had finished a sock, and Kitchenered with nary an error. I was due. Also, for me, conceptualizing the putting together of a sweater requires quiet and concentration to ensure some kind of accuracy. I turned off Law and Order and began to think (a painful process so late in the evening).

OK, so. I needed to put 9 stitches from the body onto holders for each sleeve in order to make the armpits (and yes, I did remember that I also needed to put 9 of the 36 sleeve stitches onto holders to match). So, 29 minus half of that nine doesn't quite work. Let's make that 29-4 for each front. Which means that I would need to knit 25, put nine stitches on a holder, then knit the sleeve on (minus nine more stitches from the sleeve on their very own holder), then knit [58 - (5 x 2)] for the back, put nine more stitches on a holder, knit the second sleeve on (minus another 9) and sail through the front (which should be 29-4 stitches). If I did that right, then 25 + 9 + [58 - (5x2)] + 9 + 25 should equal 116, and dang if it doesn't! Having checked my math twice, and verified with my very rough notes to myself as to what I intended to do that I was following my own directions, I commenced to knit.

Here's where the trouble started. The phone rang. I was sure that it was He Who Had Been Working Late checking in, and chose to ignore it until I'd survived the math/knitting hell in which I was embroiled. To my pleasure, the phone rang twice and stopped. I thought, HWHBWL knows that I know it's him, and that I'll call him back when I'm done doing whatever I'm doing. Alas, not so much. The phone rang again, and again I decided to ignore it. This time, the answering machine picked up, and lo! I was right, it was He. Figuring that now that he had left a message, he would happily and sensibly wait for me to call back, I struggled womanfully on.

And the phone rang again.

At this point, I was juggling a circular needle, four dpns, two balls of yarn, a couple of sleeves, and trailing ends were everywhere. I was also holding what is, for me, a complicated math equation in my head. I had also been stealth knitting in an attempt to keep the kitten from noticing the aforementioned trailing ends, and must now, yarn and needles following willy-nilly, dive for the phone. Suffice it to say, I was not happy. And when I snarled a greeting into the phone, he tells me that he was worried I wouldn't hear the answering machine and might be wondering where he was. I barely managed not to point out to him that I am, in fact, versed in the use of cell phone technology and would have called him if I had in fact been worried, and merely suggested instead that he trust the answering machine and Stop Calling!! Sigh...

At the end of it all, however, the sweater made it onto one circular needle and is ready for me to work the yoke. And Older Daughter has Millicent:
(They are the same length, they're just not pulled up evenly.)
Aren't they lovely? I really am still completely charmed by these guys, and DD was happy enough with them to wear them to school today (after a careful consideration of the status of the marine layer, which was deemed to be heavy enough to keep the day relatively cool).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Songs of praise

Oh, wow. I woke up this morning, and the marine layer was back. It didn't last long, but I actually needed to pull up the sheet last night because with the fans on, I was a bit chilly. This, after the weather we've had, is nothing less than a miracle. Now, don't get me wrong, the overcast didn't last long, but it's not supposed to this time of year. It is, however, supposed to be there of an evening, and it has been tremendously disturbing to my equanimity that it hasn't been.

I'm good with extreme weather. I grew up here in California, and I've lived in the San Joaquin Valley, in L.A., in the Bay Area, and here in north San Diego county. I've spent stretches of time in Lake County and in the Trinity Alps. I get changeable weather. Over the year in Sacramento, it goes from over 115 in August to below freezing in the winter. Now, I know that 115 doesn't seem too bad to those folks out in Tucson, and freezing is nothing to everyone who lives in points north, but remember, you've got to have closet space to cover what you need for both kinds of weather; this requires planning. As a child, we used to go to San Francisco sometimes from Sacramento, and I'd remember leaving, the sun pinning us to the driveway like helpless bugs, and my mother would say, "Take a sweater." We'd look at her like she had sprouted a spare eye in some unsightly place and refuse. Two hours later, we'd be freezing in fog-bound SF, wearing summer clothes on a 50-degree day. (Later, when I lived there, we laughed at tourists who did that.)

I must confess here to a love of fog. Maybe it's the memory of the relief I felt at stepping out of the car and feeling the cold, instead of unremitting heat and sun. Maybe (as my husband firmly believes after seeing how happy I was the first time I went to Ireland and it rained on us for days) it's some remnant of my Irish genetic past, telling me to seek cooler climes. All I know is that the weather that makes me happiest is brisk. Some (such as my dear friend from Hawai'i), might even call it cold. I honestly would far rather spend the day in jeans and a wool sweater, walking along a beach in 50-degree weather, the wind making my cheeks cold and red, than lie on a towel on the sand on a 90-degree day with the sun making my skin hot and red. Hiking in a raging wind makes me happier than anything in the world. I stand on a ridge, and with the wind in my face I am sure I could just lift my arms and fly. (This is, perhaps, the largest part of my fear of exposed precipitous heights. There is this small part of me that wonders how it would feel to free-fall through the air; I'm sure it would be great right up until the landing, and I hate to imagine the second thoughts I'd have for about 10 seconds if I ever tried it.)

In spite of that preference for cold that draws me north just as often as I can get there, I love California in the sun, too. In spite of the snide comments of those in other parts of the nation that we have no seasons here, we do. They are just off-kilter from traditional seasons, and sometimes tremendously subtle. Far from the usual white winter, muddy spring, green summer, and red fall that story books show, we've got green winters. The rains come, and like some kind of miracle in December, little sprouts of grass show up all over the hills. Plants get tremendously excited by the chance to reproduce and wildflowers cover the hillsides by March. Sage grows rampantly, as does the poison oak, and in some places, if you know where to look, you can begin to stake out claims on blackberry futures (always knowing that you will pay a price in poison oak to get there). By May, the grass is turning brown, and summer is starting; this is the season when the hills take on the aspect of sleeping lions, brown and lazy in the sun, looking as soft as velvet. The sage and fennel bake in the heat, and hiking at this time of year means coming home smelling like a Thanksgiving turkey. If you're lucky enough to live in a fog belt area, you can walk the hills under bay laurel trees, and come home with leaves that make your hands smell of far-away places. Fall here is fire season, and the color in the foliage comes not from our oaks, but from the poison oak, which shows off its hiding places with bright red flags, laughing that you didn't know it was there earlier. All the other colors at this time are in sepia tones: olive, brown, sage, grey; they are subtle and lovely, and it is texture that gives the landscape depth.

I went to the LA County Museum of Art with the girls this past spring, where there was an exhibit of art depicting California. There were two huge paintings by an artist whose name (alas) I cannot remember; but the paintings are burned in my memory. They are my state as I see it. One was entitled simply "The Ocean", the other "Hills". The ocean is all shades of greys and blues; not the bright turquoise of a Mediterranean sea, or of the Caribbean, but quiet tones, blending into the sky; the horizon line blending in almost seamlessly. The hills are the velvet browns of fall, sleeping, and waiting for rain to bring them to life with grass and landslides; these are the hills that Native Californians called the walking hills because they move each winter as water undermines them. There was a quote from the artist. Someone had asked him if he had a religion, and he replied, "I think it is California". I get that.

I know there are other beautiful places, and that other people find California appalling in its self-aggrandizement (so do I, sometimes), but that is not all there is. True, there is something about LA, its brashness, that appeals to me (for short periods of time). And I have always adored Berkeley, where no matter what I do, there are a dozen people within arm's reach who are weirder, more opinionated, more out there than I could ever hope to be; I love the concealing cover of their doings. The exuberance is worth valuing in its own right. But most people, who think of Hollywood as the epitome of this place, don't know its quieter beauties. They don't know that most of the state is rural, and conservative, and much of it is poor. Not just the urban poor who are noticed once a decade, when Oakland is crowned the murder capital again, or when LA riots, but those who live in places that are relatively untouched by urban woes. Who grow many of the crops that have made this such a rich state, including the illegal ones that are stashed away on federal lands in the mountains of the north; if you grow dope on federal property, the land can't be confiscated when the crop is found, right?

Working with Native Californians as I do, the point of most commonality for me is this attachment to place. Not to a movie California, but to a land of variety and subtlety. To the way the red clay mud sticks to your feet in the winter, making you slip and slide when you hike. To the smell of the air when rain falls on sage. To the blind feel of walking through tule fog, trying to breath cold, wet air. To coming over a rise and coming face-to-face with a kestral, hovering in hopes of flushing a ground squirrel; or meeting up with a coyote, who looks up with a wise, knowing smile; or seeing a heron rise from a marshland beside the freeway, wondering where the rest of its swamp went when it wasn't looking. That's a different kind of thing, more timeless, more about an attachment to an ecosystem, to the feeling of being one small but integral part in a seamless whole. Sitting on a beach, watching the land meet the sea, I have brief moments of feeling that unity that Buddhists seek. I feel it hiking through a sepia landscape, watching for the small changes that tell me it's going to be hot, or cool; seeing fog drip from live oaks. I could probably feel this in other places, but this is where I am, so this is where it happens most comfortably for me.

All this is by way of saying that it bothers me on a deep level when something is off-kilter in this ecosystem. And this weather is way off-kilter. I know heat. I know the Santa Anas that pour in from the desert, ionizing the air, driving up the temperature, and making everyone crazy. This past week has been weird, still, humid weather. Not at all normal, and frankly, not to my taste. I know people who say that they love humidity, but I figure either a) they've never experienced humidity, or b) they're lying. I mean, how is it possible to enjoy feeling sweat trickling down your back just because you're exerting yourself by breathing? I used to visit my Nana in Rhode Island in August, and man, that is some miserable weather. Like breathing through warm, wet wool (now, breathing through cold wet wool is called "damp", and I like that). Anyway, cold and grey at night, and warm during the day. That, my friends, is what September here is supposed to be like, and it had damned well better stay that way.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The heat...

First off, I made it through my week at work. (Thanks, Tracy, for your good wishes!) Breathing definitely helped, as did another Buddhist concept that gets me through a lot -- transience. I keep reminding myself that everything changes, and that, as miserable as a particular experience is, it won't -- it can't -- last forever. Mostly this helps (although, in my darker moments, it makes me think of one of my mom's favorite things to say at times like this: "Cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.")(Mom was an ER nurse for quite a while -- can you tell?). So, the situation doesn't seem to have lasted forever, although the personality traits that gave rise to it are somewhat more immutable. I remind myself frequently that there's nothing I can do about that; I'm hardly in control of myself, let alone other people.

One thing I do wish I had more control over, or at least I wish I understood better, is the image other people have of me. I recently have come to realize consciously something that I think I've known for quite a while, which that there are people in the world for whom I exist less as me (the way I think of "me", such as it is), and more as a projected image that fits their notion of who they think I am or should be, given their expectations and worldviews. For many personal reasons, this is a particular trial for me (I know that there are other folks out there who might find this annoying, but not soul-eating; they have their own buttons, I am sure). I do not quite know what to do about it, although I am very clear that I can't change their view of me. What I am not sure about is how to defuse the trigger for me; how to find my way to a place where I operate with integrity (in that original sense of integration of inner and outer selves), and let the chips fall where they may. I'll get there, but sometimes it's hard waiting for the shift that opens up the next step in that direction.

More concretely, I'm plugging along on Tess' socks. Here's the first one (finally, a photo!), modeled on Tess' leg (I took some of it on my leg -- it just wasn't the same). I am almost done with the leg of the second one, and should get the heel turned tonight (fingers crossed).
I should say that, in spite of my griping about the lacework section of these socks, I remain completely charmed by the ribbing and the way it swirls around the front, and merges together in back (Rick declared them "cool"; they clearly impressed his engineering soul). This continues to be true also in spite of the fact that ribbing normally makes me twitch. Furthermore, I am so completely taken by this effect that I am already planning to make myself a pair, although for myself, I will leave off the lace cuff, and simply start with an inch of 1x1 rib. Although I've never worn knee-socks as an adult, I can imagine that I'd like them quite a bit in the winter under my long denim skirts.

That is, if winter ever comes again. Right now, it doesn't seem as though it will (just this morning, Rick wandered through the living room, which is sweltering on a 95 degree day, and said "who thinks global warming isn't happening?"). We have no air conditioning. In years past, this was a sane and considered decision. We didn't want to add to our carbon load, and since we live only about 8 miles from the ocean, we could almost always count on, at the very least, a nice marine layer to roll in of an evening to cool things down. Apparently, we can't count on it any more. For the past two years, we've been getting monsoonal weather from Mexico -- huge thunderheads on the horizon that never produce rain, but that trap the heat, and make everything humid and heavy. We are seriously considering finally committing to the solar panel decision; at the very least, we could put in attic fans, even if we didn't go for central air. Even after being here for five years, I miss Bay Area summer weather, which rarely topped out much over 85, and always cooled off at night (in fact, friends of mine who moved there from the east coast always lamented summer evenings on the patio; it's true that it's hard to enjoy that quite so much when the wind is blowing in through the Golden Gate, and temperatures have dropped to below 60). At some point, when I do not have to cook two vegetable side dishes for 25 people in the next hour or so, I will tell you of my love of fog and cold, but for now, suffice it to say that I feel the lack acutely.