Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Day 20: A place to sit

My view for today's meditation:
When I can, I prefer to sit outside.  And there is truly nothing better than sitting near the ocean.  Add in a lovely, quiet, bluff-top garden, and I'm in heaven.  Today is my dear friend's birthday, and she decided that her celebration should start with some time in quiet beautiful contemplation, followed by lunch and a wander through shops, all with friends.  I think it ended up being as much a gift for us, as for her!

I hope your days had a bit of peace and quiet in them, too. Or raucous joy, whichever it is that you most need today.  I confess to being rather ecumenical about sources of joy, contentment, and peace.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Day 19: Shieling update

Twenty-three squares down.  Seven more to go.  (And please don't remind me about the ends to be woven in or the whole putting-together part of this project.)

That is all.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Day 18: Making meaning

“For those of you accustomed to being taken from point A to point B to point C, this presentation may be somewhat difficult to follow. Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider’s web – with many little threads radiating from the centre, crisscrossing one another. As with the web, the structure emerges as it is made, and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that meaning will be made."  
          - Leslie Marmon Silko

I was reading something written by a friend of mine, and she included this quote, and it just hit me in all the right places - so I thought I'd share.  It made me think of what I wrote yesterday, about not really knowing what themes would come up, but seeing that they are beginning to arise, and trusting that they will make sense.  That meaning will be made.  

And boy howdy, does this make me think of so much of my life.  Where I struggle through whatever is happening (usually a whole lot of whatevers all at once, and why does it work that way?), and what it all means is an ever-present question without much of an answer, except for the persistent sense that it does mean something if I can just hang on long enough to figure out what it is.

And then it speaks to the meaning-making part of my mind.  And, I think, of the minds of all humans (and probably other animals, too).  That we seek out patterns.  This is how epistemologies arise - we observe, we patiently listen and watch, and we trust that out of what appears at first to be structureless, unconnected bits and pieces, like magic - like a spider's web - meaning will be made.  I love that we are implicated in the meaning making. And I try to be respectful of the fact that we are implicated in the meaning making, because it suggests that each of us may make different meanings out of similar events - not because one of us has it right while others are viewing the world mistakenly, but because we are each part of the meaning-making process.  And that is something to respect and celebrate at the same time.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Day 17: Round up

So, I've been doing this for seventeen days, and I thought I'd step back and see what I think of it, and (if you're interested in telling me) what you're thinking of it.

First, thank you guys for leaving comments!  I've responded to the ones where I know your email address, but I can't, alas, respond when I don't.  (As before, if you are interested in that kind of conversational comment style, you can tell me your email address at knittinglinguistATgmailDOTcom, replacing the AT and the DOT as appropriate, of course.)  A few quick responses:

- Laine - a hairku!!  dude, thank you for that! my whole family and I thought that was awesome :)
- greenmtngirl - thank you for the kind words on the intent/impact post, I'm glad it seemed useful; I'd love to know more about your nonprofit
- Elizabeth, Jean Marie, TK, Portia, Allison, Willow, and Polly - thank you all for saying hi and encouraging the magpie theme; and especially, thank you for sticking with the vagaries of this particular blog, I'm really glad you're here.

Second, it's an interesting experience to have made this commitment to write something every day.  I wake up full of ideas, and my day only gives me more.  But I often find that, as with so many other things, my day gets away from me, and a few times I've hit the end of the day and found myself almost doing what I usually do with things like this (physical therapy exercises, I'm looking at you): thinking, ah well, I'll do better tomorrow.  In this case, though, the commitment to put something up here is an additional motivator.  I don't know if that motivation will fail at some point - it will be interesting to see how it goes over time.   (An unintended consequence of thinking about posts I could write is that what I refer to in my meditation practice as "narrator mind" is strengthened.  This is a phenomenon to observe; I'm sure I'll write about it at some point.)

Third, it's also interesting to see what themes come up for me most often.  I'm working on developing useful labels/categories/metadata.  It seems to me that there are posts and ideas that fall together in my mind, and if I can find the right label, it will help to collect them - and maybe even help me to see themes and connections that I didn't notice at the outset, but that arise as this project continues.  This is a sort of interesting unintended consequence, to begin to refine my understanding of my own lenses and areas of attention.  These labels seem to fall at different levels, too (I'm not sure that's a clear way to put it...).  So, for example, one is interconnection, which is rather philosophical, not to say metaphysical.  Another is a sort of observation of how my mind works (like the swimming laps one), and another is curiosity/fact-finding (soon you will all know more than you wanted about which strokes burn more calories, for example).  Those are much more concrete than the interconnection thing.  And, of course, there's the Venn diagram of themes; social justice and interconnection appear together, and mindfulness overlaps with both of those.  Only seventeen posts in, it's hard to tell what might happen, but, as I said, it's an intriguing (to me) outcome of this project.  Who knew metadata would become its own theme?

So I guess all of this is to say that, reflecting on the last few weeks, I see some of the shape of what I might learn from doing this, and also the shape of the challenges the project will offer me.  (I think I should keep rereading that post I wrote on swimming laps, because when I think about how many more days there are left to go, it's intimidating and tempting to let myself off the hook by quitting now; when I think about tomorrow's post, or one more week of posts, it's less overwhelming.)  The semester approaches; that will be a significant challenge for me.  Another is whether and to what degree I want to take risks with my writing here.  I posted a few narrative/descriptive type pieces in the period of my off-again on-again writing; it felt risky, but also like something I'd like to challenge myself to do more often.  So that, too, will be interesting to observe - what do I end up "using" this for?

In any case, here I am.  It's a beautiful day, and the sun is shining where I am.  I hope each of you has at least a bit of brightness in your day, too.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Day 16: Synchronicity

It was warm today.  I really shouldn't gripe about muggy weather - I know that our humidity issues aren't the same as those in other parts of the country (to be fair, neither do those other parts get humidity in the single digits, so I figure I get to complain a little bit when ours goes over 50%, right?), but the air just feels warm and heavy, in a kind of annoying way. 

At the barn this morning (where it was abundantly clear that there was no way to get there early enough that I could beat the heat), I figured it was a good day to give Disco a bath.  Not only did she really need it, but she's also been off lately, so it was going to be a handwalking day - a good time for a horse to dry after a bath (read: before rolling around in her stall to really grind the dirt in her wet coat).  You know it's hot when, instead of fussing about the hose, she stands quietly and looks almost happy (except for the face-spraying part - she's not so sure about that).

Afterwards, we walked around rather slowly.  She's off.  And I'm off.  And I don't know if I've mentioned, but poor Tilly has been limping lately, too.  All of us in our left lower/hind limbs.  It occurred to me today that we'd make a funny sort of conga line all walking along together - step, hitch, step, hitch!  (Or, with them, stepstepstep hitch! stepstepstep hitch!  but you get the idea.) 

We're all going to get better, I'm sure, but in the meantime, it's nice to know that the hitch in my gitalong and I are in good company.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Day 15: Making progress

When Tess went off to college, I knitted her a blanket
 Knowing how long it had taken me to knit it, I decided to make sure that I'd have plenty of time to knit Kivrin's, as her time for college approached.  Like her sister, she has very good taste (and no sympathy for how long it might take to knit something), and chose this


I ordered the yarn, and got started last fall, figuring I'd have lots of time.  I knew that I also had some graduation knitting to get done (I decided years ago that each of my friends' kids would get something hand-knitted when they graduated from college: shawl-type objects for the women, and socks for the men; I have a few who have gone a different route, and so I need to figure out a nice milestone-type occasion to knit them something)(the flaw in this plan is that they tend to come in batches, which has meant some very busy knitting years for me).

Then things, which had been difficult, kind of fell apart.  (I write all this with Kivrin's permission.)  Briefly, Kiv has several learning disabilities* which don't have an impact on her ability to actually comprehend high-level course material, but which do have an impact on her ability to process verbal instructions and to organize herself.  And her school has the most ass-backward way of managing disability accommodations that I have ever heard of.  Basically, her teachers decide what they think she needs, on the basis of, apparently, watching her in the classroom.  (Rather than, oh say, reading her diagnosis.  Or talking to a professional.)(Some of the teachers who were deciding what  accommodations were reasonable literally did not know that she had cognitive disorders, and the school counselor kept trying to tell us she has ADHD, suggesting that they did not read the diagnosis put together after an eight-hour battery of tests by a neuropsychiatrist.**)  Because she is smart and articulate and (and I kid you not, this is what one of her teachers said in a meeting) dresses well and looks put-together, and because she was working towards her International Baccalaureate diploma, they decided that she was using her "disabilities" as an excuse to get extra stuff (they actually said this).  And that she therefore didn't need the most crucial of the accommodations that she requested: assignments and due dates, ahead of time, in one place (read: a syllabus); and the ability to turn things in late when she missed getting the assignment because they wouldn't give her that first accommodation.  Teachers also refused to proactively check in with her (as in: I'm collecting assignments now, do you have yours), or to help her remember to get a list of what she heard them assigning in class signed to confirm its accuracy.  There's more, and I won't go into it all, but there was a very strong sense of, smart and learning disabilities don't go together, so she must just be trying to get away with something. (That was actually said out loud several times at one memorable meeting, where it was suggested that she stop doing the IB program, and stop doing theater tech, rather than providing reasonable accommodations for her disabilities.)(Pointing out to them that she was very successful in a college summer class when she was given - gasp - a syllabus with the schedule of assignments so that she could track them more easily was totally dismissed.) 

The last two years of high school have been brutal, frustrating, and exhausting for both of us.  For some time, I was reading textbooks out loud to her each night, and taking dictation on assignments (just to name one example).  Long story short, there came a point in her senior year where it was unclear whether she'd graduate in June or have to finish up in summer school.  And since she was waitlisted at the two colleges she really wanted to attend, we were all rethinking this coming year as a year for her to take classes that interest and excite her at our local college, regain some confidence in her ability to function in an academic setting, and participate in some of the fantastic theater programs in the area. 

In the middle of all that, the college blanket took a backseat.

And then, Seattle University (her top choice school) accepted her.  And she graduated.  (I literally had so braced myself for things to go sideways at the last minute that I couldn't believe it, even once they handed her a diploma with her actual name on it.)  And, in July, she received her International Baccalaureate diploma (which is totally no joke at all, dudes - that's a demanding program). 

So guys, she's going to college.  In September. 


I have been knitting madly since it hit me that this is all real.  I did the math at one point, and calculated that it's taking me about five hours per square of knitting time; then there's the putting it all together.  I figure if I have the squares done by the end of August, drop dead, I should have enough time in the first two weeks of September to put it together.  Right?  (right?)

 Twenty-one squares down, half a square OTN, eight and a half left to go.  I've got this.

*Dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, visual-spatial processing disorder.
** Guys, if we had this much trouble, with all of the resources we were able to access, up to and including an accurate diagnosis, can you even imagine what it's like to be fighting this system without time, money, and information?  Your kid would be on ritalin, sitting in the back of the classroom, faster than you can say, get out of our hair.  As we come out of the other side of this, I keep wondering where I can leverage what I know and have to benefit folks who just aren't as lucky as I have been.  The system seems intractable, though.  At some point, I may expand on this with a post about what I learned about disability accommodations in education, and what we learned from the lawyer we consulted.  In any case, I'm mulling it over.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Day 14: Exciting Tour!

Spoiler alert - don't read if you watch the Tour and haven't seen today's (Stage 18) results.

Just finished watching today's stage, and I am so excited - Julian Alaphilippe has hung on to the yellow jersey!  Only two stages left where he could lose it.  (And the received wisdom is that he probably will.  I may have mentioned my love of the underdog, however, so I remain undeterred in my optimism.)  He lost contact with the second place rider (Geraint Thomas - last year's winner) on the final climb, but it wasn't a mountain-top finish.  And man, can Alaphilippe descend.  That man dropped like an elevator.  I almost couldn't look - it was terrifying.  (I was literally clutching my hair at one point.)  But he caught up with Thomas, who, in fact, has falled into third place behind his teammate Egan Bernal. 

OK, maybe this isn't your cup of tea.  Sorry.  But I am just so in awe of what it takes to ride 2200 miles in three weeks.  And more than that, to track everything that's going on from day to day.  What kind of stage is this? Whom does it suit?  What's your job on this particular stage? Whom do you have to watch out for?  Which of your team's goals is the priority for this particular day?  (Remember, there are about seven different competitions to keep track of: yellow jersey - that's the overall winner - green jersey, white jersey, polka dot jersey, stage win, most aggressive rider for the day, best overall team.)  All of those calculations change from day to day, over 21 stages (many of which are well over 100 miles).  It's insanity.  It's so clear that, much more than a physical feat, this is a mental game.  What it takes to get up each day and race - each day's race is already a world class event by itself - day after day.  I can't imagine it.

Which means I probably shouldn't be already griping in my head about getting up to swim tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Day 14: A question for the ages

Why do spiders insist upon building their webs across the paths where I walk?  (These are big spiders, but I honestly don't think they have any hope of catching a human.)

Also, why do they keep building their webs when things (read: me) walk through those webs and break them? (Please note: I don't do this on purpose.  I don't do this on purpose for two reasons, actually: one, it would be mean; two, I might end up with a spider in my hair.)

Does this mean that the kinds of things that spiders actually hope to catch and eat are flying along the same paths where I walk? 

I imagine that this must be frustrating for the spiders.  I can see the blog post now:

Weaving Spider
Day 14:  WTF?
Why do humans persist in walking into my web every morning??  I just finish getting the darned thing woven, and I settle down for a nice rest before the gnats start flying around, and bam!  Human!  You'd think they'd learn!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Day 13: Ottercam!

For those moments when you really need a break from whatever ails you:


You are welcome.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Day 12: Mind games

Earlier this summer, when the bursitis in my left hip got so bad that it started radiating down my leg and into my back, I finally gave up and went to PT.  Where the physical therapist looked at me and said, "How would you feel if I told you no more walking or hiking for at least the rest of the summer?"

I gave him stink-eye.  And then listened to the nice man and agreed.

It propelled me to commit to going back to the pool, which is something I'd been thinking about for a while.  And here's where the mind games start.

First, it's the internal conversation:
You really like being in the water!
But it's cold.
Not after the first lap!
And early.
But then you're happy for the rest of the day!
It's cold.  And early.  And besides, where will I swim?  The Y is far away, and 24-Hour Fitness is expensive and the pool is indoors and there are weird dudes sitting in the jacuzzi watching you swim and The Wave only has lap hours three days a week in the summer before they close for the rest of the year.
So you can swim for the summer!
But I should swim all year.  (Pretends this argument isn't ridiculous)
(Looks up information about The Wave) Look!  It says they now do lap swim all year 'round!
But it's cold in the winter.
(Rolls eyes)

See?  There I am, pre-owning the fact that getting across the pool deck into the water (it's an outdoor pool) in the winter when it's dark and below 40 degrees outside (stop snickering, oh my East Coast and Midwest friends - it counts as cold when it's below 40 and you're wearing a small piece of Lycra and about to get into water) is really hard and I have trouble making myself do it, at a time when it's in the mid-60s in the morning, with plenty of sunlight.  This is how my mind stops me from getting up in the morning and getting my ass into the pool.

But two can play that game!

Once I'm in the pool, and have the first lap or two under my belt, I remember why I like swimming.  The fact is, though, that lap swimming can feel tough sometimes - back and forth, back and forth, again and again.  Sometimes the water is heavy, and it would be easy to think it's too hard to do however many laps I've told myself I'm going to do.  So I play games with my mind. I do all my laps in small sets - right now, it's in sets of five; soon, as I work up to my goal of doing 44 laps, it'll be sets of 4, which I find even easier to count.  Has anyone seen the TV show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?  I've only seen a few episodes, but there's a really funny one early on where she talks about how you can do anything if you count it in tens - it starts off easy at one and gets harder and harder, but then you make it to ten, and you're back to one and it's easy again! 

That sounds silly, but it's totally true.  So the first lap feels great.  Lap two, and I'm often thinking, I'm bored, this is hard, I can't do four more, I hate backstroke/freestyle/breaststroke/kicking/pulling/life in general.  But lap three, and I'm over the hump, and then four and five are downhill all the way.  And then I'm back to one!  It's amazing how much easier 30 laps are when you're doing them by fives.  I trick my mind every single time with that one.  I have it convinced that the only hard lap is lap two, and there are only six lap twos in the whole workout, right?  How hard can that be?  I have no idea how laps four and five feel like they're downhill, but they do.  (And, in honesty, so does the return length of a lap - I swear it's harder going out than it is coming back, for reals.)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who plays games with her mind?  Otherwise, it sounds kind of like I'm crazy...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Day 11: It's that time of year

July in this house, as the girls have long known, means one thing:

The Tour.  (Known to the rest of the world as the Tour de France.)

Three solid weeks of actual reality TV - you couldn't script this stuff.  Four jersey competitions, plus best team.  Alliances made and abandoned.  Each day, the questions: who will the team ride for?  Is it a mountain day? A sprint day?  What do you mean your team is riding for two possible yellow jersey contenders?  It's fantastic.  Not to mention the insane spectators, who are right there on the side of the road - madness.  And all with beautiful scenery!

Are we the only ones?  Anyone else cheering Alaphilippe?  This is where my love of the underdog comes out.  Last year, I was all in for Geraint Thomas - it was so exciting to see him get to win.  This year, I'm feeling the same way about Julian Alaphilippe.  Rick just shakes his head and says it's a long way to Paris.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Day 10: It comes for us all

My hair curls now, as
it has not since childhood. I
look strange to myself.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Day 9: Intent and impact

A lot of ink has been spilled in recent days over whether or not Trump is a racist.  I want to contend, perhaps controversially, that it doesn't matter.  And, in fact, that arguing over whether or not he (or anyone else) is racist doesn't serve those of us who are deeply concerned about this kind of discourse.  It doesn't serve us, not because what he's saying isn't racist, but precisely because it is.  And this is where the distinction between intent and impact really matters.

I'm a linguist (I may have mentioned this before).  And, in fact, I'm a linguistic anthropologist.  So you might say that my stock in trade is based in the understanding that speech* is action.  To say something is to do something in the world.  (Maybe reread that, because it's the foundation of the whole rest of this post.)

What this means is that we are not responsible only for what we mean by our words, but also for what they do.  I understand that this is the point where all of us, including me, to one degree or another, feel resistance.  But surely I can't be responsible for all of the possible impacts of my words - what about people who are hypersensitive?  What about stuff I didn't know could be hurtful?  Why can't people give me the benefit of the doubt?  And I get it.  I truly do.

That doesn't change the fact that our words have an impact. And the more that those words ring with broader discourses and social structures that create and reinforce inequalities, the more we are responsible for their impacts.  A useful term here is "intertextuality", the idea that every text (spoken texts count) is understood in no small part through its links to other texts, past and present.  No speech event stands in isolation. 

I think it also helps to unpack what it means to say that a particular speech event is racist (or sexist, or misogynist, and so on).  (I should say before I go on that there's really no way to cover this well in a space this short - this is a massive national conversation we need to be having - and I was tempted to say nothing at all, but I think that way lies complicity, so here I go.)  A racist speech event is one that upholds and justifies the structures which legitimate one group of people's ways of being and doing as right and natural for our society as a whole.**   

As a relevant aside, I have been struck by the many people who are upset by those who criticize what they call "our" way of life.  Who is the "we" there?  It is white, Christian, and patriarchal.  The use of "our" is another racist speech event that upholds those identities as normative, right, legitimate.  And it simultaneously denigrates anyone who would hold alternative perspectives.***

A racist speech event is about power.  It upholds the power, in this country, of white folks to say what they want; it upholds and justifies the structures that allow that to happen.  It upholds and legitimizes the violences that keep people of color from speaking (physical, emotional, psychological, political, and so on).  A single speech event, through the process of intertextuality, draws upon and feeds the many other speech events that create a system of racism in this country.  In other words, speech doesn't just reflect what is, it creates it in an ongoing way.  It reifies structures - makes them real.  As fiber artists (which I know many of you are), we know that a single strand of yarn may be weak, but a knitted or woven structure is strong.  In the same way, a single speech event, all by itself, may not seem strong - but we must acknowledge and understand that each speech event is interwoven with many many others.  And that interweaving makes them strong.  It creates impact.

I started this off by saying that it doesn't really matter if Trump is a racist (and boy, am I having trouble not also writing this about misogyny).  And here's why.  When someone says that he (or anyone else who says something that justifies and reinforces structures of racism) is a racist, it's all too easy to duck that charge, as we are seeing here.  And then we get into arguments about whether a person really is racist.  (Check out this video, which I show my students each semester - Jay Smooth gets at this point in a fun and useful way.)  But it doesn't really matter whether someone is racist in their heart of hearts.  Instead, it's critical to focus on what their words are actually doing out there in the world.  As many have argued in their analyses of the implications of telling four women of color, all US citizens (and three of whom were born here in the US), to go home if they are going to criticize anything about the US, these words do a number of things out there in the world, all of them racist.  They say that some people are allowed to criticize the US, and others aren't. I'd like to point out that no-one has told Bernie Sanders to go home.  Or Elizabeth Warren.  That is a text (silence is also a text) which links to this one, and tells us that white folks (and especially white men) can engage in criticism of the US, but that women of color cannot.  These words tell us which folks can become US citizens, and whose membership in our national community, no matter how long they've been here, is contingent.  Barring Native Americans, we all came here from somewhere - some of us willingly, others as enslaved human beings.  No-one ever, not ever, tells white men to go home.  Their immigrant status is gone in a generation.  People of color do not get that consideration.  (This chimes with the birther lies about President Obama, which only make sense if the citizenship of people of color is always contingent.)

Even Lindsay Graham's statement reinforces this message: "I don't think [Trump's statement] is racist to say.  I don't think a Somali refugee embracing Trump would be asked to go back.  If you're racist, you want everybody to go back because they are black or Muslim."  It is not true to say that if you're racist, you'd want everybody to back.  Racism is about maintaining systems of inequality.  Insisting that people of color are OK as long as they agree with you is, you guessed it, part of a system of inequality.  It relies on and replicates racism. 

I know from teaching about this in my classes that it's really hard to step into the idea that our words are implicated in immense and intractable structures of racism and misogyny.  It feels too big.  I think we end up feeling frightened by the weight of responsibility that this implies, and when we're frightened, we often get angry (so much easier to feel righteous indignation than fear and shame).  As I try to help my students see (and as I try to remember myself), the fact that our words have so much power should give us not only pause and an incentive to be careful, but also hope.  If my words can reinforce structures of power inequity, institutionalized forms of violence, surely they can also help to undo them?  At the very least, I have the power to choose not to make real the things that I don't want to see in the world.

When someone calls us out on the impact of our words, and we respond by saying things like, "but I didn't mean it that way", or "why are you so sensitive?", we are speaking from and defending our smaller selves.  When we say, "but I didn't know" that it would have that impact, or that it does that thing out there in the world, that is true sometimes.  It seems, though, that once we know better, we can do better.  Not out of a sense of self-flagellation or martyrdom, but rather because there's something important about being actively engaged in creating the world we want to live in.  Something that speaks to our larger Selves, the selves that understand that we live in community, that interconnection makes us better.  Bringing about Martin Luther King Jr's Beloved Community, a world where we can look at one another and see ourselves in all other beings - it doesn't happen in isolation.  It doesn't happen if we indulge in guilt or shame, or if we hide from the consequences of our actions.  And it certainly doesn't happen without care for our words, precisely because they are action. 

*"Speech" is (not unproblematic) shorthand for language in both its primary - oral and manual (signed) - and secondary (written) forms.
**Please note: this is why reverse racism really isn't a thing.  Even if individual people are biased against white folks, they don't have the structures of power behind them, and their bias doesn't create structures of power which disadvantage white folks. I know that it's tempting to think that they do, but the data show otherwise.
*** Please also note: to believe that this was, at any point in its past, a white nation is to disregard the facts of history.  Our history books have been written to give that impression. Which, of course, implicates those books in this project of upholding racial inequities.  This is also why it's problematic to say that people of color (and women, and LGBTQ folks, etc) are playing "identity politics".   We're all playing identity politics - it's just that white, Christian, male identities are allowed to remain unspoken, so when policies are put in place that benefit that particular group, we call that business as usual.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Day 8: Connecting

On the way to an appointment this afternoon, driving along the Coast Highway with the top down, I got a call saying that they were running about 15 minutes late.  As it was, I was going to be early.  So I pulled off, got out of the car, and sat myself down on a flat spot to watch the ocean for a while.  It's a perfect day - clear, 80, onshore breeze.  And I just sat, enjoying the sun, and the breeze, and the expanse of the ocean in front of me.

There are ground squirrels everywhere in the bluffs that overlook the coast - they run around and play and chitter at one another.  There came a point when I looked over to my left and saw, sitting there just quietly, a ground squirrel. She was up on her hind legs, front paws resting on her belly, gazing out at the ocean, completely at peace.

I was moved by such a heartfelt sense of deep connection - there we were, two busy beings, taking a moment out of our days to regard beauty, to sit quietly with the world.

Before I left, I bowed to her presence, which so enriched my own.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Day 7: Who needs to "go back"?

This has been coming to mind over the last few days, so I thought I'd post, as it makes me laugh in a dark and sassy kind of way...

A slightly different perspective on belonging and respect, in response to this week's deeply problematic twit storm:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Day 6: Food for thought

Context:  I am currently about six months into a two-year mindfulness meditation teacher certification program.  So much more to say, but I'll leave it at that for now.

A quote from the book Science Set Free (Rupurt Sheldrake), talking about the ideas of the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:

"Reality consists of moments in process, and one moment informs the next.  The distinction between moments requires the experiencer to feel the difference between the moment of now and past or future moments.  Every actuality is a moment of experience.  As it expires and becomes a past moment, it is succeeded by a new moment of "now", a new subject of experience.  Meanwhile the moment that has just expired becomes a past object for the new subject."  

That really describes one of the insights offered by meditation - that reality is just the rising and falling of right-now experience, and that the moment of now feeds into and creates the next moment of now, just as it was created by past moments of now.  Interesting...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Day 5: Twenty-five years

Twenty-five years ago today, we had a party to celebrate and to say in front of everyone all the things that we already knew about each other and our relationship.

 (All photos of photographs; who knows where the negatives now are?)

Twenty-five years later, and there are still so many things to celebrate together.  My life is so much richer and happier because of this man and our relationship.  Love you, babe.
(Credit for this last one: GerrBear Photography)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Day 4: Singular they

A propos of yesterday's post...

The New York Times recently published an interesting opinion piece about the use of singular "they".  It was especially interesting to me because the author proposes doing something that I have considered doing - using "they" for everyone, as the default singular third-person* pronoun.  (The reasons why I don't think this is an unproblematic suggestion are a post for another day.)

It's worth backing up here and saying that I naturally think about pronouns and gender.  Because a) I'm a linguist (see the title of the blog); b) I teach a language and gender class; c) my daughters both have friends who identify as gender fluid, some of whom maintain their original gendered pronouns, others of whom prefer "they"; d) to my own surprise, I find myself struggling to use "they" to refer to a specific singular human being (although I have no trouble whatsoever using "they" to refer to a non-specified singular human being, and find the arguments that "they" can only be used with a plural antecedent specious, see more below).  It's the combination of those things that attracts my attention, in the form of - hunh, I wonder what's going on there?  I have, in the past, had relatively little trouble when friends (or friends of the girls) change their preferred names.  After some mistakes, I usually settle into the new name fairly quickly.  I am definitely of the opinion that people should get to decide what they're called, whether as individuals or groups - naming is a form of power, and the protests of the dominant group that they can't keep up with the preferred names of non-dominant groups is a way of maintaining power.  Any time someone protests over something like a name change, or a particular way that language is used, it's time to start looking at power structures.  (When someone says, what's the big deal with me using X label to refer to you, instead of your preferred Y?  I always want to say, if it's not such a big deal, why not just do it?  The answer is because it is a big deal - naming is power, and the right to name is a way of asserting power.)  So what the heck is it that makes it so difficult for me to remember that my daughter's friend is "they" rather than "she"?

In response to the article, I posted the following**:
As a linguist who teaches about language and gender, I have always found the insistence that “they” shouldn’t be used to refer to a single person problematic, in the sense that such a rule doesn’t describe what many people actually do with language*** - which is to use “they/them” to refer to singular, unknown or unspecified people. We do this all the time, and to suggest that it’s confusing or ungrammatical to say “Everyone should turn in their homework now” doesn’t accurately capture reality. The place where I have unexpectedly found myself struggling is when referring to a known and specific human being as “they”. My sense is that this is difficult for me precisely because, in my mental grammar, “they” encodes a nonspecific person; I don’t think I’m alone. Nor do I think that this is immutable - we change the way we speak all the time. Grammatical elements of language (pronouns, in this case) are more difficult to change, but not impossible. As a relevant case in point, consider our second-person pronoun, “you”. Historically, “you” was our plural pronoun, while “thee/thou” was the singular. I don’t think anyone would argue now that it’s confusing to say “you should come to dinner” - even though sometimes it is (do you mean me? Or my whole family?). We negotiate those confusions in other ways [e.g., the addition of y'all to our lexicon; and when y'all, in some dialects, came to refer to singular human beings, the further addition of all y'all]. So there is no reason why our pronominal system can’t absorb a similar change in the third person. And many reasons why it should.

I've been mulling this over more since then.  Someone posted a question on my comment, saying that they thought that "thee/thou" was like Spanish "usted", that is, a formal pronoun, which caused me to confirm my assertion (I was correct; here's an interesting summary).  Basically, the pronoun "you", once simply a second-person plural pronoun, came to have a pragmatic function of also indicating respect, or of denoting a relationship between strangers (as "vous" does in French).  "Thee", over time, began to fall out of usage, except in intimate relationships in some dialects.  But it had already been encoded in the King James Bible, and in poetry, and so began to take on an additional pragmatic function as a marker of religious or poetic language, which is probably why the person who commented thought it meant the formal (when, in fact, in the Bible and poetry, it was simply marking the singular).  Summary: pronouns can come to mean more than simply first/second/third person singular/plural; they can also denote social relationships or roles.  When those additional denotations become the dominant meaning in the mental grammars of speakers, then language changes.  

The idea that we can't use "they" to refer to a specific, single, human being because it's ungrammatical or confusing just doesn't square with the evidence.  But it does square with the kinds of language ideologies that we use to police non-dominant groups.  And it does square with a strong belief that we shouldn't have to be uncomfortable when we speak - an idea that is only true for the dominant group (non-dominant groups in any given setting live with discomfort when they speak).  I tend to think that discomfort is important - it tells us when hidden norms and values are being challenged, and gives us an opportunity to look at them head-on, and to ask, whose values and norms?  To whose benefit/loss?  And, where do I stand?

*  Just for those who don't swim around in grammar all the time, some definitions.  First person refers to the speaker (in English, I/me/we/us).  Second person refers to the the addressee - the person or people being spoken to (therefore, the second people in a conversation)(in English, you).  And third person (as I always say to my students) refers to the spoken-about (she/her/he/him/they/them).
**  I am not one of those folks who leaves comments all the time - I very rarely do.  I also very rarely read comments, because they usually just annoy the crap out of me.  As my comment probably did to some other poor soul who chose to read it.
*** Linguistics is the study of what people actually do with language.  In other words, we describe real-world language use, rather than prescribing how language ought to be used.  A linguistic anthropologist, such as myself, might look at ideologies around how language "should" be used as an object of study, but our field is not focused on grammatical nitpicking.  That is not to say that we don't all have our pet peeves around language use - but when we are being professional, we know that those are ideologies/opinions, rather than true statements about grammar; the question of "good" versus "bad" language is not a linguistic one.  I often wish more people knew this, because as soon as I say I'm a linguist in any social gathering, people find some excuse to wander off and never talk in front of me again.  Little do they know that, rather than judging, I am listening carefully so I can gather data!  (mwahaha)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Day 3: Pride

My younger daughter and her friend went downtown today to celebrate in San Diego's Pride parade and festival.

Question: Why is San Diego's Pride celebration in July instead of June?
Question:  Is this a metaphor?
Question:  Or is it a kind of cool way to remind us that none of these X Month celebrations should ever be restricted to just one month?
(Or maybe both?)

By happenstance, I had the opportunity to indulge my inner magpie with an unplanned stop at a yarn store sighted in Bellingham (while taking my niece to visit WWU; no, yarn stores were not meant to be on the itinerary).  But the logo for Northwest Yarns is an octopus holding knitting needles - I had to go in, right?  I may have walked away with a few things (but not the Majacraft Little Gem that I have long coveted - good for me, right?), including (speaking of Pride) this lovely braid:
which is destined to become something warm for my daughter to wear this winter in Seattle, where she'll be a freshman at Seattle U.  I really should be working on her college blanket (ahem), but I am trying to spin a little bit each day while we watch the Tour de France.
I'm actually done with the red and orange and am into the yellow.  This will be chain-plied to preserve the nice long color changes.  Knitters out there, any recommendations for something in the neck-warming realm that would show this off suitably?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Day 2: Continuing joy in things

AKA: Is it so bad that things can make me happy?
AKA: The hedonic treadmill isn't always a thing.

Today was an errand-y sort of day.  But there came a point when I was able to put the top down on my little Beetle, and turn on the car trip playlist - one of my favorite top-down kind of songs came on, and I was driving down the coast highway looking at the ocean, and it was just perfect.  And I got to thinking - is it such a bad thing that my little convertible Beetle makes me so very happy?  And that got me to thinking - how is it that I continue to be made so very happy by my little car?  Psychological theory suggests that we tend to return to a relatively stable state of baseline happiness, regardless of major life events, positive or negative.  That theory is also often applied to the acquisition of things - we are very excited by them, and they make us very happy, until we sort of acclimate to the happy, and return to our baseline levels.  This is the hedonic treadmill, or hedonic adaptation.

I'm not going to say that that doesn't happen to me - there are certainly things that I have totally lusted after and dreamed about and wanted, that, after a while (or even pretty quickly), stop seeming so exceptionally excellent (there are several knitting projects, and yarn acquisitions, that I'm thinking of right here).

But it is also true that there are some things that I maintain a real, heart-expanding, sense of joy around.  And I'm trying to figure out what they have in common, or what it is that lets me have that deep sense of continuing joy.

A first-pass list:
- my stick-shift convertible Beetle TDI (all of that is relevant - more in a moment)
- Disco (a story for another day)
- my vision, after Lasik (fifteen years ago, maybe?)
- the fact that my leg doesn't have constant nerve pain any more
- the rugs that we got in Turkey
- my back patio (especially, but not limited to, the wisteria, jacaranda, and quiet morning coffee)

I think there's a lot more, and that list may be something I add to over time.  What I think a lot of those things have in common is that they come with a story, or a feeling-tone - and that doesn't diminish with time.  The Beetle is a case in point.  I often said to my husband, in a kind of "check out my silly dream" sort of way, that someday, when we could afford another car (read: after the girls were both out of college), I'd love to get a convertible Beetle.  Stick shift.  Diesel.  For various reasons (having to do with VW's need to buy back my husband's diesel Passat thanks to their nefarious machinations), the possibility of getting a car came sooner than I'd expected.  And then here's the thing: Rick made it happen.  He searched for, and found (in Michigan, no less), the ridiculous, impractical, fantastic, happy-making car that I now have.  (These are so hard to find that the guys at VW refer to it as a unicorn.)  And every time I put the top down, and drive along with the music playing and the wind in my face, it brings me joy.  Every.  Single.  Time.  In a year and a half, it hasn't gotten old.  And it's not just the wind in my face and the music, and the joy of the stick shift (I really love me a stick shift) - it's that all of that is also wrapped up in love.

And someday, that little car will stop working - as all things do.  And that's OK.  The joy part won't stop working, because the emotion behind it doesn't go away.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Celebrating the magpie

So, here are a few relevant bits of information about me.

1. I like to write.  I miss writing.  I often feel compelled to write, but don't seem to be able to get moving (see #2).  I admire people who make a decision to spend a year writing each day - about something that makes them happy, or a children's story, for example - but,
2. I tend to feel like I have nothing to write about, by which I mean nothing important, or big.  Nothing that is leading to something.  Nothing that is "worth" writing about for 365 days in a row.  Also,
3. I am a very undisciplined person.  I do not find myself comfortable setting a routine on the basis of some kind of invariant rule, of the "I will always write for 20 minutes a day, no matter what" sort.  In fact, any rule that starts with "I will always", or "I will never", almost inevitably leads, not to me actually getting the thing done, but rather, to all kinds of questions, like "why?", and "what if...?", and "does that really make sense?"  There is an element of laziness, and a tendency to avoid doing things I don't particularly want to do.  But I think I am also a questioner by nature.  Any idea I have (or anyone else has - fair warning) is worth questioning, examining, reexamining.  Not for nothing have I always resonated with Emerson's "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  Furthermore,
4. This inconsistency exacerbates the problem of wondering what I could possibly write about that's big enough. Or what I could find that I'm willing to commit to for 365 days.  Because in all honesty?
5.  I am a magpie.  I am both easily distracted by shiny objects (like books about how octopodes* think, or about how trees talk to each other, or about mindfulness and race, or about trauma, or...  you should see my bookshelves; and my art supplies; and my yarn stash; and my cookbook shelves; and...), and I like to take these shiny idea objects home to my nest and turn them over and about and think about them.  I like to put them next to each other and see how they interact.  Sometimes I write haikus about them in my head.  Sometimes I violently disagree with them.  It's all part of the fun.  With all of that said, I am judgmental of my inner magpie.  Or I trivialize it.  One's inner magpie, I tend to think, doesn't produce something meaningful and worthwhile.  (This begs the question - does it need to?  What about joy?  Curiosity?  The thrill of discovery?  Are these not, in themselves, worthwhile?)

I sat this morning with the idea of writing every day for a year.  And, as usual, my first response was an anguished sort of sense of:  there really isn't any one thing I feel compelled or qualified to commit to for an entire year.  All kinds of ideas arose in my mind - a haiku about aging, the endless questions I have about how the world works, my inner naturalist, mindfulness, knitting, spinning, parenting adult children.  So many things.

And then, the image of the magpie.  Fascinated by everything.  Endlessly willing to explore.  A little loud and obnoxious.  And in that moment, I decided to embrace my magpie.  I could write something every day, I think, if a question counts.  Or an etymology.  Or a description of the spider who insists upon building her web right where I walk each morning to feed the cat.  What if I commit to my magpie?

So that's the plan.  To write something each day, without determining in advance what that something will be.  Except to say that it has to be something that comes from or feeds my magpie.  I don't know who is still reading here** (although I do see a hit count when I post, so it seems that some kind people are still around - hi!).  So I don't know how anyone who is reading will feel about this new plan.  I don't even know if this is the right place to enact it.  But this blog is here, and, as I have said before, I have a real fondness for it.  I miss it.  So, the Knitting Linguist is embracing her inner magpie - welcome along for the ride.

Here we go!

* Here's a cool thing.  Years ago, when I took a fifteen-week Ancient Greek intensive summer school course (as one does), I realized that "octopus" is Greek, not Latin.  The -i plural nominal ending is Latin, not Greek.  So I did some playing and poking, and realized that the plural of "octopus" ought to be "octopodes".  I felt very pleased with myself, but also kept it kind of quiet, until one day it occurred to me to see what the Oxford English Dictionary thought about the whole thing.  And I'll be darned - it actually lists "octopodes" (stress on the antepenultimate syllable, pronounced like "antipodes") as the plural for "octopus" (alongside the later-come "octopi", and "octopuses", which has apparently been around since the beginning).  I find "octopodes" much more fun to say than the others, so "octopodes" it is. 

**  Actually, if folks are willing to do a sort of roll call, by leaving a comment to say hi, I'd love to know who's still here (and if you, too, post online, please let me know where)!  I should also say that I love to respond to comments - if your comment-leaver doesn't have a way for me to respond to you (not everyone has their email attached), but you want me to respond (or are willing), you can also email me at knittinglinguistATgmailDOTcom (replacing the capitalized words with their symbols, natch).