Penguin time!
Saturday January 06th 2007, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

My son Richard had a friend flying into town for a visit over the break, and we took her to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to show her the sights. We’ve been there many a time, but it’s always evolving and never the same twice. And: they had a Great White shark to go see. The first one that ever survived captivity was the first one they had, till it outgrew the place and they let it go into the outer bay.

Let me tell you about that new shark. It’s huge. I have never before seen the cleaning crew at work on the huge Outer Banks exhibit. Picture two large people swimming on the floor of the tank, sweeping it with giant squeegees. Now picture a third, swimming above them, occasionally waving hi to the crowd but mostly looking out for that Great White: he’s holding a long pole with a large loop at one end and a giant rubber Q-tip thing at the other end. All three swimmers are wearing chain mail.

A sunfish comes a little too close to the guy. Sunfish are these truly strange creatures where God forgot to add on the rest of the body after the head: just behind the bulging bug eyes, there’s this sort-of-a tail–more like a downward arc with giant silver beads attached. The thing wasn’t the 5000 pounds they can get to be, but it was big enough, and it actually leaned into the window a bit right above our heads. Showoff. Keep an eye on that Great White…

It being a Saturday, there was a large crowd, and all the sudden a collective loud gasp and breathcatching happened; I didn’t see it. But I saw that pole in return midswing and the shark swimming off.

The penguin exhibit: there were two keepers in there, and one had a shivering bird in her lap–shivering, or, it looked like me when I was having my seizures. She stroked it, and gradually it relaxed and held still. Another penguin was going, me? Me?? She handed the first to the next keeper, who stroked it under its chin like a kitten, and then the back of its neck. The bird was clearly feeling, ooh aah. Right there–yeah, you got it. Yessss. Bliss. Meantime, the second penguin waddled right up into the first keeper’s lap to be stroked. My turn!

The giant kelp forest tank had a diver coming in to feed the fish just as we were about to leave, so we watched. The leopard sharks–scratch that, I just looked at their site, I guess it was wolf eels, which makes more sense–did an elaborate, lithe, figure-8 dance, curving and curling around each other, the diver, each other again, the diver, and he held out his hand with a good-sized morsel to one: chomp! Kevlar. No chain mail here, but he had to have had kevlar gloves on. He did it for the next one; again, right out of his hand.

I snapped a photo on our way out of that tall kid again…

Miss Violet’s yarn
Friday January 05th 2007, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit

This didn’t get delivered yet; we’ve had a busy householdfull. But I thought I’d snap a quick photo of the finished project before the wonderfully random-chance pink ribbon scarf ends up with its rightful recipient–a breast cancer patient, as I mentioned not long ago. The two sides are fairly perfect mirror images in real life, away from the camera.

The phone rang
Friday January 05th 2007, 11:14 am
Filed under: Non-Knitting

It was Wednesday when the phone rang rather early; my oldest sister wanted to talk to the folks before any of us might happen on any breaking news stories. Her daughter was safe. And, it was mentioned, she didn’t really know the victim.

Carole goes to Foss High School in Tacoma, Washington.

I’ve been thinking since then, it doesn’t really matter how close we are personally to the one who was hit. An act of hatred hates all of us, hurts all of us.

But an act of great grace, of love and of unwavering compassion regardless of what was done, heals us all far more. Will anyone ever forget how the Amish lived what they believed, for as long as any of us will live? Will we not hand that story down to our children’s children in our personal families’ histories as well as in the textbooks to come?

Which our children’s children’s children will learn about in school. And our humanity will go on.

Totally floored
Wednesday January 03rd 2007, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

I learned so much when I lost my ring. I’d quit wearing my original wedding ring when I’d been in critical condition and on megadoses of steroids and it absolutely didn’t fit, and I never got back in the habit. The blood diamond thing had bothered me ever since I learned about it a few years ago; the idea of wearing something that would contribute to the societal pressure to wear a diamond to declare you’re married… When, to me, the ring my grandfather had watched being made for my grandmother on an Indian reservation, something like 80 years ago, held a stone that was symbol enough to me of their love. So. I wore my simple silver band with the four small turquoise stones, one for each of my children, and that was fine with my husband.

Till it disappeared one cold day when my hands got too thin, the day after Thanksgiving. I always wondered if it went down the sink and clogged the plumbing at my husband’s boss’s house, and if he was just too nice to say so.

I looked around, and Richard got me a new turquoise ring, but meantime, I learned:

That the major American turquoise mines got tapped out in the big Native American jewelry fad of my growing up years. That, and, the way they mine gold these days has changed, so that instead of revealing turquoise veins as a secondary part of the process, the stuff is crushed and lost instead. (What a waste.) The better American stones now are often still produced by the old-fashioned pick and shovel it out method (with maybe a compressor helping). Hard work.

That turquoise rarely has crystals, so it can be fairly fragile.

That turquoise can change and turn greener over time if it’s exposed to a lot of lotions and chemicals and various things which people tend to come in contact with. (I like green, so I kind of shrug at that one.)

That a lot of turquoise these days is stabilized so as not to change color and to be stronger, but those stones, although shinier, are less valuable, being less natural.

I learned about a few individual Navajo and Zuni artists and to see their work online. I actually bought a few more pieces, which is the first time I can think of in all my married life that I’ve gone out and bought jewelry; I’m not a big jewelry person. But I loved their work, I wanted to honor the artists, and, frankly, I was horrified at how little they were getting for it these days. Maybe that’s partly from my experiences as a knitter–like the woman who demanded that I make her a handspun handknit angora shawl for her just like mine, and that she was going to pay me: twenty-five dollars. That’s a lot of money, you know! She said it in a tone to make clear I should be grateful for the opportunity. I offered to teach her to knit, by way of shrugging her off nicely. She, clueless, demanded to know when hers would be done by. (Excuse me?) I just laughed it off, while quite mindful that I live in a time and place where, financially, shrugging her off was an option available to me.

This morning, five minutes before leaving to take my parents to the airport to fly home, I happened to glance at something shiny down at the piano bench’s leg. I had vacuumed there umpteen times. It must have fallen right at the leg, and gotten bumped back out into view when my son Richard moved the bench one of the times he played the piano recently.

The stones a light turquoise and not shiny, although the silver is. Perfect.

Lookee there.

Handspun cashmere
Tuesday January 02nd 2007, 9:01 pm
Filed under: Knit

Once upon a time, I bought some cashmere roving from Kate Painter, not long after she’d opened her Paradise Fibers store. About eighteen months later, I called her back on a long shot: I had finally spun it up and started a sweater, but I was running short, something I never do (I highly disbelieve in starting knitting a project you’re not sure you have enough yarn for.) By any wild chance?…

Turns out she knew exactly what batch I’d ordered from, and she did indeed have more; she would check to see how much she had and get back to me.

What I didn’t know then was that she had some because she’d put it aside for her own private stash, and that she spent hours going through her basement looking for that cashmere that she knew, just knew, she had. She so much empathized with that helpless feeling of a beautiful project, almost done, which can’t quite come to be, unless… She found the rest of that roving.

Rather than leave her with too small an amount herself to do much with, we talked, and I ended up buying the pound and a half or so that she had down there, and she reordered however much she wanted from her supplier. I had enough for my project, and then some, so.

…come Stitches West the next February, I gave her a lace scarf out of it as a thank you. The funny thing is, I was the second very happy customer to surprise her with a scarf that day, and she happily put mine on over the other one, knowing people would ask, knowing she’d get to brag on her friends all day long that way. Kate is so cool. She has since sold her store, and I missed seeing her this last year’s Stitches. A lot.

Meantime, I still have plenty, some of it spun up, some of it not yet. Stash yarn is wonderful stuff: you can get an idea and be able to just jump in and run with it. Knit it up fast when you need it.

And in the case of this thing I started last night, beat the plane coming in at ten pm here.

I think it needs more yarn, Mom
Monday January 01st 2007, 3:27 pm
Filed under: Knit

My 22-year-old hamming it up. Handspun, white cashmere plied with a golden baby alpaca/silk mix. It may go down to MY knees, but I should know by now that doesn’t mean it’s long enough (and yes, he is taller than that doorframe). Good thing I spun that third ball!