Coming home (with photos of the C&O Canal)
Sunday October 21st 2007, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

C&O Canal at Swain’s Lock

I had been knitting in the airport and then the plane for nearly ten hours straight, with a few breaks for Southwest Airline snacks and drinks; I had all these new yarns to play with, and I wanted this older one finished with. The only way to make that happen was to sit down and do it, so I was resisting the call of the Brooks Hansen novel and just kept on endlessly going.

But somewhere over Nevada or so I needed to stop and my hands needed icing. I knitted a few more 385-stitch rows while considering that, and then it dawned on me: I asked for some ice water. I drank the water and then spent the last half hour of the flight holding that small airline cup against my hands and wrists. Note that the bottom of those are thinner and less insulated than the sides and therefore more helpful, should you ever need to know that.

I turned off the overhead light as I was icing, taking in the California lights that were just beginning to glow beneath us and that grew more frequent and intense as we approached the Bay Area. Brilliant white and orange jewels inlaid along the obsidian of the night Bay, and I was guessing–Stockton? Walnut Creek, over there? I was wishing I could place where we were.

I had that feeling suddenly of being watched, and glanced up to see the fellow to my left as we sat in the bulkhead seats, who’d been looking intensely out his own window across the aisle. He glanced quickly away; I think he’d just been trying to see the lights on my side, too, to compare.

I glanced back a few minutes later, and it struck me how much change there is in travelling: you leave one place and one set of faces and experiences completely behind you physically, and substitute another set for it in your life. I wondered if he was coming home or leaving it, and his fingers began to rapidly drum the bottom of his windowframe: playing music? Writing email, subconsciously? Was he reaching out to those behind, or those coming, in his thoughts? It felt so utterly human and alive as he sat there hunched down, seeing out that small bit of glass so intensely as if he could will his destination to hurry up. The small child in me inwardly whined the classic, “Are we almost there?” and I laughed at myself for it.Canal barge at Great Falls

A moment later, I saw him stroking one long set of fingers with the other, then again, switching sides, as if some part of his mind had realized that it had put his thoughts out on too-open display, if anyone could but read the workings of his hands, and that he needed to erase the typings to regain his privacy. I’m sure he had no idea he was even stroking them.  His mind seemed far from the inside of that plane.
Street lights, and as we descended some more, those of individual homes. Clearer and clearer rushing at us, each place with its own stories.

And I silently wished him well as he returned to his own, wherever that might be.C&O Canal at Great Falls

Winding down
Friday October 19th 2007, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Knit

All these photos I can’t post yet!  But I missed getting one of the gust of wind capturing a goodly number of perfect yellow leaves and sprinkling fall confetti shimmering over the canal, a little ahead of my brother and me as we walked along the towpath at Swain’s Lock.  Gorgeous.

Bryan drove down from New Jersey yesterday to see us, and we had a delightful time visiting.  He and I spent several hours again today driving around, reminiscing, pointing things out to each other and generally behaving like a couple of homesick types glad to be back for a short while.

One of the things we were remarking to each other about is how growing up in Washington is probably different from other places: you learn early on to wear a celebrity-filter-o-meter.  We were chuckling over stories and memories of people we knew whose parents were names you’d often read in the paper: presidential candidates, ambassadors, you name it, but to us they were just Tom and Fabriccio (did I spell that right?) and the like.

We drove past the old homestead, and the contractor nicely allowed him the grand tour, too, like I got to do a week ago.  I gave the man an inscribed copy of the book and a scarf designed specifically to celebrate the rebirth of the house and how happy Mom and Dad were to sell the place to the woman that bought it; he promised to pass them along to her for me.  We drove past a couple more times in the afternoon on the slim chance the new family might stop by to check on the contractor’s progress–it would have been so cool to get to say thank you in person–and I waved hi as we passed by that last time, hoping we weren’t getting annoying by then.  (I’m sure we were!)
And that’s probably that.  Tomorrow we fly back west.

Little Dee
Thursday October 18th 2007, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Life

If you don’t already read Little Dee at, you’ve got to go read this week’s comics strips there. You have to love a vulture that rides a sheep, sings shanties and knits.

My friend Laura Nielsen came by today, showing me the plates for her children’s book that’s coming out next spring. Laura, give a shout out in the comments, my mind’s blanking on the title, but it was absolutely delightful and that is the first book I’m going to set aside for my future grandchildren. (Okay, it’s really for me.) Every day’s a day to celebrate, was the theme of it, and then the children celebrated the neighbor who’d been celebrating with them.

And while Laura was here, she being a sometimes knitter, I…fessed up and showed her just how much yarn I’d bought the past weekend at Stitches. I think of my stash as my yarn library. I like being able to have the spirit move me, go through it, and find I have just the right thing at just the right time. It’s happened over and over and over in my life. It’s just, I don’t usually…well… How many dinners do you eat in your life? You just don’t usually see a month’s worth of dinners set at the table in front of you all at once, and it’s a little overwhelming. But there’s a lot there to sustain my creativity for some time to come.

Last night I finished the project I’ve been working on. Surf the wild swells of superwash! Cowabunga!

Quarter pounder
Wednesday October 17th 2007, 6:34 am
Filed under: Life

Yesterday my husband and Karen and I drove hither and yon: Sugarloaf Mountain, Cunningham Falls, Catoctin Mountain Orchard (where we did indeed buy apples, and some of the biggest I have ever had) up near the Pennsylvania border, dropped by briefly to say hi to Kathleen, and called Bev: we’d forgotten to sign each other’s books. Hey! Great excuse! So we drove up north of Baltimore and took her out to dinner, where I found she’d had the same reaction I’d had to finding out we’d forgotten to: that we would get to see each other again while I was still out here. Not only that, but she and Karen hadn’t seen each other in 30 years. About time.

I wanted to mention: when I was packing for this trip, I thought, wow, that purse is heavy, and I pulled out my wallet and poured out all the change that had accumulated in there. There was a lot. No need for that to be weighing me down.

And then, though it made no sense to me and I was marvelling at why I was doing this as I did this, I sorted the quarters out and put them all back in. Not just one or two, but about five dollars’ worth. That’s a lot of weight and a lot of quarters, but they wanted to march right back into that wallet and so they did.

At Stitches East on Saturday, Lynn suddenly realized that she had no quarters to feed the meter to keep from getting a ticket, and her time was about up out there. She was stressing out about it, while I suddenly remembered that moment of sitting picking those quarters back up. I opened my purse and gave them all to her. It was enough to take care of the whole rest of the day, and she was set.

I can’t think of any time I have enjoyed a few quarters quite so much.

See NN
Monday October 15th 2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Life

I know, this picturelessness is getting old. Although there might be pictures one totally unexpected place…

Sunday morning, we went to church in a building that is home to four separate wards–meaning the earliest congregation started at 8:30. Um, that would be the one we were going to with the folks. Translated to West Coast time, that was 5:30 am, and we were by then hovering somewhere in between, and the night before I’d been too tired to even glance at my email after Stitches. We decided to just go to the main meeting and then take me home to crash. Can’t let me get too tired; no relapses allowed.

Just as we were about to head out, I found myself exclaiming in a definitely unchurchy voice, as he came in, “WES!!!!!”

Wes grew up in the town in California we live in now. We knew him when. He’d left about ten years ago. Of all the people I never expected to see, but there he was. Small world.
He was with a CNN cameraman doing some piece on the Mormon church. The camera dude wanted shots of people coming in for the services. Which the second ward was doing–as we were heading out. On camera. By ourselves. Our own little perp walk. Great. Just how I wanted my 15 minutes of fame. You know, that’s a great way to keep my Stitchesified ego in check–too funny. But it was worth it; we got to catch up with Wes and old times a bit.

Hey, Wes, tell Michelle hi for me!

Stitches East!
Sunday October 14th 2007, 12:41 pm
Filed under: Knit

Stitches East! I had way too much fun.

Friday, Kate and her mom Deb found me. They’d decided to jointly knit me some lace socks, and settled on toe-up so that different gauges would be okay; Deb got them started, Kate carried on.

When I was a kid, I only liked the biggest box of crayons, because it had the One True Color of deep rosey red, nice and bright. It’s still my favorite, and it’s a blueish enough shade of red that it doesn’t make me fall down.  Guess what Kate and Deb just happened to pick out, out of all the colors in the world? And they fit exactly perfectly. I asked them if it would be okay if I waited till the next day to wear them, when they would match with the pink shawl I was going to wear. Sure. Meantime, I was wearing Kristine’s beaded socks, the ones you see on her lilacknitting blog page. I had at least six or seven people stop me wanting to know about those socks Friday. Not my shawl or my book but those socks, which delighted me. As I told Kristine, and want to say to Deb and Kate too and the others who have knitted me socks, some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. I do on my feet. They announce to the whole world that I am loved.
Karen of the Water Turtles shawl was wearing the one in the book and pushing me in a chair, and people were coming dashing up to us wanting to know where we’d gotten the patterns. Hey, I can help you with that one!

I’d been wanting one of Sheila Ernst’s new shawl pins, and when I tried to pay for it she waved me away. But–but! Sheila! She looked me in the eye and said, Knitters aren’t the only ones who get to give gifts.

Kate and Deb and Karen and I were towards the back of a large booth talking for ages and ages, with the LYSO occasionally popping into the conversation. We kept offering to move on, and she kept saying, no, I’m enjoying this! She read a story or two out of my book from my copy I was carrying around. We just couldn’t stop laughing as we all swapped stories.

Afton found Karen and me. Afton could get a job as a stand-up comedian–we laughed so hard and so often that, put it all together and Karen said on the way home that she hadn’t smiled so much in years. Afton made me the tam I had always aspired to make and never had. I love blues and greens, and it was blues and greens. I wore it till I got just too hot Friday, and Saturday till she told me it clashed with the pink and demanded I take it off. Aw, shucks, Afton, but I like it! She put her hands on her hips and mock-demanded like a mom who has raised twin teenagers (fancy that) that I do as I was told.

Saturday, Kathleen picked me up. She had no idea what was coming. Turns out she’d skimmed my posts about the Cunningham Falls shawl, noticed that it was for a Kathleen, and was jealous of whatever other Kathleen I knew it that it was for. Heh. She loved it. Karen marched her into Sheila’s booth, found a shawl pin that looked like it had been made expressly for that shawl, and Kathleen bought it in great delight. Very cool.

Rod and Lisa Souza are good friends of many years, and it was a treat to sit in their booth and sign books for them. You know, awhile back, I found a yarn on the web that was–well, it was the color of Kate and Deb’s socks–and I emailed Lisa the link and asked if she could dye me yarn that color. She did, and I found it. Cerise in the Sock! yarn, which takes the color particularly crisply. It went home with me.

Melinda at Tess Designer Yarns and I swapped a copy of my book for yarn, and I was so interested in her colors that I forgot to sign the silly thing. Duh… But it was one of those times where we both came away feeling like we’d definitely won.

I found the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth towards the end of my second day there. (Finally!) I was not expecting what I got: the moment I showed up, the woman there that I’d talked to at Stitches West in February exclaimed, “We’ve been being yelled at all day because we don’t have that pattern!” motioning at the shawl hanging nearby. That Backstabber shawl on my blog awhile back? Tina had hoped to buy it from me. I’d turned her down. But as we were talking on the phone, come to find out she’d grown up two and a half miles from me. Private vs public schools, our paths hadn’t crossed then (I don’t think.) Anyway. And then I surprised her with it. And there it was in the booth. I told Kaci that it was fairly similar to my Bigfoot shawl in my book, if that helped any. (Well, that was as close anyway as she was going to get to having instructions for right now; if I do a second pattern book, it’ll be in there.)

Weatherly Mize also gave me a shawl pin, a treble clef that had lost the curl in its hair in the California dry weather, is the thought that tickles me when I see it. I wore Sheila’s and Weatherly’s together.

We had people coming up to us asking about our shawls. The entourage grew, till it was Karen, me, Kathleen, and Colorjoy Lynn in my shawls along with Afton and Robin, sadly shawlless. They got shawls from me before I figured out this circular thing… Lynn gave me a handmade kazoo that my father in law really wants one of too. Make some more for your shop, Lynn, because my Christmas list just got easier. She also dyed me some store socks and I have the yarn to make a shawl to match. And gave me a CD of her husband and her playing folksy bluegrass stuff that I can’t wait to get home to put on the stereo.

One of the hazards of going to Stitches in a wheelchair and having your friends egging you on every time you admire a yarn and having them stuff it behind you out of your sight as you buy it is that when we got home and they put it all together, I was gobsmacked at how much yarn I had mysteriously accumulated. That’s a whole rollaboard’s worth! But oh, am I going to have fun.

The lady at Maple Creek Farm watched Karen and me: I had Karen hold two skeins I couldn’t decide between at a good distance from me, so that the colors would pop out and I could see them better, distanced from all the ones they’d been nestled among.  We did that earlier at a booth selling Fleece Artist; from 20 feet away it was a no-brainer: the blue and green (go Afton!)  At Maple Creek, I still liked the rose and the purple both.  I finally bought the red–and she GAVE me the purple!

Karen and Kathleen and Lynn and I went out to dinner and talked till I dropped. I didn’t even read email, I just fell into bed when we got home.

While I’m trying to catch up, (and I’m sorry I can’t do photos on this laptop) I should also add about Thursday. Bev and I spent Thursday touring old spots. She hadn’t seen our high school since it had been torn down and rebuilt. We went past her old house. We went past my folks’ old house, and totally delighted the contractor by loving the remodelling he was doing on the place. You never know what reaction you’ll get, I’m sure, from a previous owner, but it was well thought out and beautifully done; I told him I wish my folks had done this years ago, it was beautiful. And where the neighbors on both sides had planted ivy that had met in the middle and was decimating the native flora, he had pulled it all out. Every bit.  Off the forest floor, off the tree trunks.  Bev admired the view out the living room window out over the woods, and I mentioned the box turtles that had been in the woods and the family of foxes that had lived under the deck. Bev took it all in, and said, “It’s coming back!”

The man was just floating on air at that. Yes. He was taking good care of it all, and we were seeing not the machine marks on the ground that he’d had to bring in for that ivy, but we saw what he’d done and why. Because we loved those woods. All of us.  It was a joyful moment.

KIPping on a jet plane
Thursday October 11th 2007, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Knit

I had plans of what I was going to knit on the plane. But sitting in the airport, I bagged it, grabbed Laura’s handdyeing project, balled the first ball and cast on. I read through the first hop but knitted through the second, getting past the yoke and into the body of the next shawl: the Julia, good, mindless airplane knitting.

While we were waiting our turn to disembark at last, the boy who’d been sitting behind us mentioned to me that he used to “do that,” pointing at my knitting, and saying how much he liked those colors.

“Oh cool! I learned when I was ten.” And then to show him with a grin to watch out where that might lead him, I held up my book, opening it up and telling him I’d had a bunch of my friends sign my copy for me. He thought that was just totally cool!

And you know what? He’s right. I can’t wait. I have two pens. Baltimore! I’ll sign yours, you sign mine, if you’d like.

Meantime, good thing for the kid still at home; he’s FedExing my inhaler… No wonder the airline didn’t give me grief over it. But I didn’t forget my yarn or needles, the important stuff. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Oops.)

More when I figure out how to load pictures from here.

Baa baa black alpaca, have you any wool?
Tuesday October 09th 2007, 8:19 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Rabbit Tracks Bigfoot variantI finished it in time! This is the Bigfoot pattern, but with the variant that I continued the Rabbit Tracks pattern all the way down the body of the shawl, not just in the yoke. Since I was knitting it in black, it was way easier to tell where I was if the second pattern row was five stitches across a repeat rather than eleven.

My friend Karin (watch the e’s and i’s in this post to keep people straight) had a half-pound hank of black baby alpaca yarn she’d bought from the farmer who’d raised the animal, and she felt it needed to go to me.

I thanked her, told her I felt there were a lot of people who needed yarn more than I did, and that my eyes just didn’t like to knit black–but a few days later she came back to me with the idea, saying she just still felt it was meant to go to me.

And so it arrived in the mail awhile ago, lovely, very soft stuff, so much of it, and I was just in awe that she would offer it up like that. It was definitely black. Looking at it, I just had the feeling that I would be glad I had it in spite of my reservations, and that Karin was right, I would find just the right person for it–and it would tell me when.

In anticipation of my trip, I asked my friend Karen of the Water Turtles shawl fame what color shawl to knit for her daughter.

Black, Karen answered. Definitely black.

Now, I would never have had any black yarn in my stash had it not been for Karin’s gift. It turns out that Karen breaks out in hives if she touches wool, a true allergy, not just that the stuff is itchy, and she mentioned that her daughter was allergic too. But they have no problems with baby alpaca.

Heh. Guess what I had on hand to play with.

Karin was right. This yarn did find where it was meant to go to, and with her help it’s about to arrive there.

(Okay, back to packing.  And yes, I know I’m blowing the surprise here, but a few days of anticipatory happiness on the recipient’s part makes that worth it, I decided.)

Stitches East booksigning
Monday October 08th 2007, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

“Wrapped in Comfort” coverI should have added: I will be at Lisa Souza’s booth at 1:00 on Saturday to sign copies of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls” at Stitches East in Baltimore this Saturday. I will be around and about the place both Friday and Saturday.

The plane truth
Monday October 08th 2007, 10:01 am
Filed under: Life

Two more days till we go. I. Can’t. Wait.

The last time I flew home to Maryland in October was 17 years ago. I told my California friends I wanted to see real weather and I wanted to see the leaves turn while I was there.

Oh, those leaves turned, right on cue. As for the weather, we spent most of the flight with the seatbelt warning sign on, we were the last plane allowed to land at Dulles, we skidded sideways on the runway, and the tornado touched down right at that airport five minutes after we did. We sloshed through three or four inches of standing water all the way across the parking lot to the car. Good times. So, I’m trying not to say anything about weather or not I want a nice Eastern downpour this time. (Although, I really, really do.)

But I have been watching the weather reports back there, and may I respectfully request that you all ditch this crazy 88 degree nonsense right now? You know if we pack for that, it’ll snow.

Saturday October 06th 2007, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Life

I mention in my book about doing swim therapy in the early years of my lupus. A detail that didn’t get mentioned was my friend Conway.

Conway was recovering from surgery for bone spurs growing into his neck from having broken it years earlier playing basketball with his kids. So, I would swim laps while he would walk back and forth across the narrower end of the pool, then I would go over to where he was; he would lean back against the edge of the pool, kick his legs gently in the water and tell me stories. We hung out Monday through Friday, an elderly man and his memories and a young mom who wanted to know what it was like to go through all the stages of life she hadn’t seen yet.

He was the best buddy of my mom’s older brother. Small world. They had enlisted in WWII together and had lucked out and been assigned together.  He loved to make those around him laugh, and he liked to tell stories on my uncle for me.

For instance. My uncle had bought a diamond in anticipation of proposing to his girlfriend and had showed it to Conway first: Conway guffawed, told him it was too small and to go exchange it for a bigger one. And my uncle did!

He had a heart attack. I had almost no experience then with the whole subculture thing of hospitals–they intimidated me. I heard that they’d moved him from the ICU to the step-down unit where he could have visitors, and it seemed important, so I got over myself and the vastness of Stanford’s maze and went to go find him.

He was grumpy and growly when I got there, which surprised me; I had never seen him like that. He was one of the wisest, kindest old men I knew. Fairly quickly, though, he recovered his sense of humor and was his own sweet self again, a relief to both of us.

I walked back to my car with a huge sense I could not explain, and still can’t quite even now for how strong it was: that my going had been one of the more important things I’d ever done. That I had made a difference. The intensity of the feeling made no sense to me and I argued with it, thinking I really hadn’t done much; I’d been there maybe 20 minutes, not wanting to wear him out. Someone else had come in when I was coming out, giving him a chance to tease me to his friend, and I imagined he was a pretty popular patient.

Much later, when I was critically ill at Stanford myself, I came to understand far better how much strength is conveyed to a patient by the immediate presence of people who care about them. Physical and emotional strength, in a direct person-to person transfer that makes a huge difference to a degree only a very ill patient can know.

While I was off at my 20th high school reunion, 10 years ago, he had another heart attack, at that pool, and he passed away. I was 3000 miles away and missed his funeral and have always regretted that. His wife Elaine, the kind of woman whom I wanted to be like when I grew up, moved to San Diego to be near her kids, and then she passed away too.

Fast forward. Fourteen months ago my older son met the future love of his life when she arrived in town from her home in San Diego in anticipation of starting law school.

Yes. Conway and Elaine’s granddaughter. We had no idea. If only he were here now to tease my son with that story about my uncle and that ring. I guess I’ll have to do it for him.

Couldn’t have done better
Thursday October 04th 2007, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Life,LYS

Knitting group doesn’t get better nor more exciting than this.

At Purlescence. The Thursday night group. Knitting and laughing away… My cell phone rang. Note that this is an extremely rare occurrence: almost nobody has my number, because I can’t hear on the silly thing anyway, and my family uses the various text features on it to contact me for the most part. It took a moment for it to dawn on me that that actually was indeed my phone ringing (and that I heard it ringing!)

I didn’t quite get it out of my purse, out of its holder, flipped open (it’s a Hiptop) and answered in time; they hung up immediately as I was pushing go. I IM’d my husband to ask, was that you.

The phone rang again. (Meantime, it turned out, my husband was IM’ing back to say ANSWER YOUR SON.)

I stepped away from the others to try to answer, clicking to speakerphone because, well, I have to, while they all tried to respectfully ignore it while I tried to respectfully get out of the way, going outside…


And asked the kid’s permission first. I walked back over to the group, held the phone out in front of me, and announced: “This is my son. He’s calling to say he’s engaged.”

The room totally exploded in cheers and whoops and clapping. I get to have Kim for a daughter-in-law!! She told Richard YES!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cantering along
Thursday October 04th 2007, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Knit

So.  I was in Purlescence, a few months after they opened, and they had just a few skeins of Claudia’s Handpaint Yarns silk in stock.  There was this one that had white and green and turquoisey blue and a bit of gray that jumped into my hands.

I put it back.

It jumped into my hands.  I put it back.  It jumped into my hands. It was very insistent about it.  The price made it something you don’t necessarily buy on a whim, but something about it was very compelling, and so, I asked them to ball it up for me, and that was that.

Just as they were finishing up with the swift, I noticed a hat knitted up on the counter, and Nathania told me that it was from the same custom colorway, dyed by special request to go with the team colors of the San Jose Sharks.

And my inner reaction was a squirm–I didn’t really like how that colorway had played out.  I wanted it more green than that.  It wasn’t how I’d pictured it.

I can’t tell you how many times after that that I wished I hadn’t had them ball it so that I could still exchange it.  The store’s doing well, and they got more colors of that silk in stock, including some absolutely glorious green and some royal blue and some pink mixture and some–okay, I’ll stop now.  And here I was with my Sharks-bitten ball.  It was perfectly nice, but…

Till the day I put it with that Jaggerspun Zephyr in Peacock, and hoped the two would turn out how I pictured they could.  I was a little worried:  what if it didn’t live up to what I wanted either?  Would this work?

You know the rest of the story.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind it was meant to be for Kathleen all along, that it was meant to look like this all along, and to say I am pleased does not begin to describe it.  I can’t wait to fly across the country to see her next week and hand it to her in person.Cunningham Falls-inspired shawl

I have it kind of bunched up in the picture to cover up the peach skirt that doesn’t go with it, but don’t let it fool you–this is not a tight shawl.  It is sized to fit a woman who is generous in body and spirit.  If you see her at Stitches next Saturday, feel free to tell her Alison sent you to say hi.

Long as we’re talking about horses…
Tuesday October 02nd 2007, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Life

(Picture is of north of the area I’m writing about, with eucalyptus trees, but it’s what I’ve got in the camera for the moment.)

Woodside areaI was driving through the hills above Stanford University, on my way to the freeway. There were fenced pastures to either side, where horses are often to be seen grazing peacefully in the preserved grasslands, with towering old oaks here and there for a bit of shade for them. I was surprised the first time I saw a white crane there as well; it’s not far from the San Francisco Bay, but the golden summer fields, away from the marshlands? Curious.

As I whizzed by this one day, I saw that horse. Its day was being anything but pastorally perfect. Its head was very low, its ears back, an equine version of being slumped down with its head in its hands, having a very rotten no good I-think-I’ll-move-to-Australia kind of day. It took me by surprise and I had no time to stop nor way I knew of to help it, no clue who the owner was nor how to reach them. I thought, as I drove on, that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to get too close to a large angry animal that didn’t know me anyway.

Its beautiful long, blond tail had been flicked against a fly and gotten wrapped into the barbed wire. Hard. It had apparently tried again and again to free itself, making it worse and worse. That poor animal was stuck.

I went about my errand and then came back the same way, looking for it, prepared to try to help this time and looking for a place to pull over. Which I did. But it wasn’t there; it had given up and yanked itself free, leaving a fair chunk of tail hairs behind. A bird was there, trying to free some out for its nest, but it wasn’t having any more success than the horse had had.

I am a handspinner. This was an exotic fiber to go work with. Lookee there. Yes, I know that’s weird. I had already made a doormat out of the very rough outer coat of a yak, just because that was oddball enough of an idea that when someone said that’s all the stuff was good for, well, hey. So maybe now it needed a blond edging on it.

Some of it was just too tangled, but I got a fair amount out and piled the wirey stuff on the front seat of my Honda Accord. And then continued on my way to go pick up my oldest from school; she was in middle school at the time.

She came to the car, saw it–I’d forgotten to move it to the back seat, out of her way–and exclaimed, “Oh, Mom, what IS that?” I told her. “Oh, Mom–that’s GROSS!”

Why is it gross? It’s just hair from a horse. Don’t you liiiiiike horses, dear?… (Picture the ingratiating smile of the mother of a teenager.)

Looking at the stuff later, I decided what I really needed was someone with a violin to give it to. ( Right?) It was stiff and thick and totally not something I was going to spin. Don’t tell the horse, but I tossed its tail and freed myself of it.

If you hear hoof beats, think horses
Monday October 01st 2007, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Down to the last few inches on that first ball of Zephyr, time to attach the second.

In elementary school, it seems like the girls divided off into the horsey set and the making-fun-of-the-horsey set. I was one of the ones who loved them and learned everything I could about them. I practiced till I could even draw a halfway decent one (and not much else.) I told my mom I was going to live on a farm when I grew up, where nobody could tell me I couldn’t have a horse if I wanted a horse. It was going to be a palomino, with long, flowing blond mane and tail. Mom smiled and said, Well, if that’s what you want to do when you’re a grown up, then, you will.

KC was also one of the horse lovers. She got riding lessons while I got music lessons. She even took me along on a ride once, in high school. Heh. That horse knew I was all nervous eagerness and no sense–it tried to scrape me off on an overhanging branch to ditch me, and I was so bow-leggedly stiff trying to keep it from killing me (with KC shouting encouragements and directions) I could hardly walk straight for a week afterwards. That left me with a new respect for what I’d wished for when I’d been little.

After high school KC bought a horse. She actually bought a horse. She kept him all the way to his old age, and now, finally, he’s gone.

I’m knitting her the Water Turtles pattern, but I wanted to make it a little different; the original was for Karen, and she and Karen were close friends from childhood on up, but she deserved something more individually her own. Okay, so I changed the k1 yo k1 yo k1 rows to yo k3 yo. There’s a little personalizing there. I got to the end of the yoke, and then went flipping through my Barbara Walkers. Nothing grabbed me. I sighed, went back to the first volume, and started in again, a little bored. I need a 10+1, or maybe a 20+1 pattern here, maybe I should go grab the Barbara Abby volume or something, c’mon universe, help me out here a little.

Got to page 209–and burst out laughing.

Sometimes something becomes so ordinary that we don’t really even see it for what it is. That second time through, I happened to truly notice the name of that pattern that I knew so well that I’d just dismissed it without a blink.



I mean, come on, how could anything have been more perfect. And now, as I’m knitting along, the variegations in the colors make the horseshoes less overtlyhorseshoes for Kathleen obvious; they’re there, and you can see them, but at the same time they become one with the trees and the sunlight shining through and the blue of the water and sky splashing down.

Like the memory of riding her beloved gelding through the woods on a glorious fall day.