Identical twins
Wednesday April 16th 2008, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Life

I’m writing this post as a message hopefully long into the future for two of my sister’s sons. This blog is, in many ways, my version of Randy Pausch’s book, having had an it-could-kill-me-tomorrow-and-nearly-did-yesterday disease for 18 years now. A friend of mine once remarked to me that the best gift a person could be given is a life-threatening disease and then to keep on living, and I would add, and to do so quite happily at that.

Same plant, same stem as the other flower

Speaking of Randy, I was watching his video about a month ago and my Richard came home from work, looked over my shoulder, and marvelled, “I know that guy! I sponsored some research at Carnegie Mellon, back at DEC…” Small world. Randy, if you see this, our prayers go out for you, your family, and your doctors, and I’m grateful for how you live your life.

Okay, back to the nephews. My sister and her family were visiting here from Atlanta back when those boys were four and a half, ten years ago. They are identical twins. I, being the doting aunt type, took lots of pictures of all her kids and gave Anne copies.

Anne looked them over–Chinatown, the redwoods at Muir, Stinson Beach, you know, got to get all the good touristy spots done–and she got this big wicked grin on her face, went over to the twins, and asked them, “Which one of you is in this picture?”

“Spencer,” said Spencer, in a tone of, like you even have to ask, Mom?

“TREVOR,” said Trevor, in a brotherly tone of, boy am I going to set YOU straight, dude.

“See! *YOU* can’t tell you apart! Now you can’t get mad at anybody else!”

And now, since I tend to see the world in wool or amaryllis, I want to show you guys: someday, one of you is going to get sick. It happens. It’s an ordinary part of the process called living. And the other one of you will wonder when that same Mack truck is going to smack you broadside too.

See these flowers in these two pictures? Born on the same stem, on the same plant. Identical twins. Do they have the same number of petals? Do they curl the same way? Are they even the same color? Do their stems bend the same degree? (Notice that I had to get under the first one to shoot it, while I could stay above the other.)

Trevor. Spencer. You have identical genes. Not outcomes.double-flowered amaryllis, I forget which variety

(p.s. See those azaleas in the background? The nursery promised me they were all the same purple variety, cloned from the same original stock. I think rather those were fraternal twins at best, what would you say?)

The Clover Chain shawl
Wednesday April 16th 2008, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift

The original Clover Chain shawl, in baby alpaca fingering weightTotally outshone by those flowers below taking up all the light in the room. Which amuses me to no end.

I really do need to get my pattern photos up on Ravelry. There–if I say it out loud, it’ll happen. Harness that peer pressure and put it to work, right? This is the Clover Chain shawl (rather scrunched up at the bottom here) in the book, done in baby alpaca fingering weight, but something like Jaggerspun Zephyr laceweight and going down three needle sizes would work too, just, you’d get a much smaller-around V-necked shawl that would be good for tying in front rather than a throw-over-your-shoulder wrap.

And, well, yes, for those who have asked–what name could I possibly have used there but spindyeknit. And I’m sitting here lecturing my fingers not to add a .com after that word.


Keep on truckin’
Tuesday April 15th 2008, 10:56 am
Filed under: Life

Once upon a time, back before there were cell phones, children, back before there was IM or email, if you wanted to talk while on the road to someone outside your car, you pulled off the freeway looking for a phone booth, you stopped and propped your hood way up in the air, preferably with a white flag pleading for help attached to your car’s antenna–wait, don’t go away, let me tell you what those were–or, generally…you were a truck driver with a CB radio.

CBs had their own culture, so much so that I greatly hesitate to write about them, not being in on it, and when my husband bought one for our car when we were newlyweds, I wasn’t quite convinced I wanted that thing near us. It was kind of like getting a tattoo for your car. He talked about safety issues, and he really really wanted one. And so he bought one. I suspected, and time proved me right, that a good part of it was, the man does love his electronics–and his grandfather happened to have been a member of the Federal Radio Commission and was later chairman of the FCC, so, radio issues were near and dear to his heart to begin with.

So. We got married, he finished his master’s, we were moving across the country to the next grad school for him to start work on his PhD, and we were driving across the mountains in Nebraska with a decrepit old station wagon missing a few cylinders trying its level best to pull a small U-Haul.

Level best is fine where it’s flat and it’s sea level, but it didn’t work in the mountains. It did not help one bit that the highway was down to one lane for road construction at the longest, steepest uphill stretch of the road, so nobody could go around us, and the long-haul truckers were steaming. Richard flicked the CB on…and heard the guy right behind us tell his fellows exactly what he was going to do to that bleeping little matchbox in his way.

I wonder if the guy had noticed our extra antenna. Richard picked up the mike and said into it, “I’m peddling as fast as I can,” turned the thing off, and floored it as best as he could. Not that one could tell.

We are finally over the mountain. I have never ever finished the taxes so late. 1040, good buddy, over and out.

And then there was that other guy
Monday April 14th 2008, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Friends

Did you hear who came!?A week ago, old friend and occasional commenter Monica and her husband Klaus were in town, visiting from Sweden, and our friend Miriam threw a dinner and had a bunch of us over to see them. They were newlyweds and Klaus was working on his PhD at Stanford back in the day; it’s been 15 years. (Monica: I still haven’t gotten the photo off Richard’s camera.)

Klaus is currently the Mormon bishop in their town. Bishops have two counsellors, all of them serving as volunteers, and one of Klaus’s occasionally flies here on business. Three weeks ago, that fellow was here, and I had brought a lace scarf to church that I’d knitted on the chance that one of the new folks might be wearing red that day.

up closeBut I saw him first, and jumped at the chance to have him take a part of Monica and Klaus’s old ward home with him. I offered it for his wife and asked him to tell them all hi for me. He accepted it graciously, but a bit wonderingly, clearly not getting why I would do such a thing or why, quite honestly, judging by the look on his face, it should matter. Knitting? It was baby alpaca, and clearly that meant something to me because I mentioned it twice, but okay, whatever. He assured me that she liked warm things around her neck. Sure, he’d give it to her for me (and you could just hear him thinking, and what was your name again? Familiar face, yes, but?…)

hi!So. Monica and Klaus were here after that, and we had a great time catching up. She is the friend who, back in the day, had knitted all her life but had never learned how to knit cablework. So I showed her. She was the most unruffleable person I knew, the most perfectly calm soul, the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up, so I was quite surprised at her reaction: an outraged, “That’s IT?!” That was all there was to it? She had let herself be afraid of trying it because it looked too complex, and it was that simple?! We had a good laugh over that.

Yesterday, Klaus’s counselor we’d seen three weeks ago was back already, looking fairly jet-lagged and ready to fall asleep in a moment. But when he saw me walking into church, a few minutes early, his face totally lit up and he stood up to come say hi. His wife had loved that scarf. Yes, the color was just right. Thank you *so* much.

It was worth every stitch to watch him go from clearly feeling absolutely beat just then to absolutely delighted. Gratitude is an energizing thing, and in that moment it went both ways.

So when that other husband, the one I blogged about yesterday, later refused to be impressed (be still, my beating ego), I already had a bef0re-and-after to chuckle over going on in the back of my head. They come around. Give them time.

(p.s. Yes, I staked that Picotee amaryllis immediately after those snapshots.)

Let me introduce you…
Sunday April 13th 2008, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

They’re new at church. I had given it to her two weeks ago: “Honey, this lady knitted me a scarf!”

trumpet amaryllis varietyHe responded with the confidence of an authority figure on the subject, “Oh, nobody knits anymore.”

His wife and I looked at him–um, what did your wife just tell you?… I wanted to tell her, while she stood there agape, it’s okay. Let him be bloggable like that. Heh. double-flowered amaryllis

Nice kitty, kitty, there, there
Saturday April 12th 2008, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Friends

The owner of the lion called Amy a week later: their cat was still sluggish, (just like it had been before they’d brought it in), and they were complaining about its maybe having been given too much anesthesia.  Amy assured them that there was no way it would still be affecting the lion by now, that it simply was quite ill (which it was).

And then, after she hung up, went, What did they THINK I was going to do!!!

The cat’s me-oww
Friday April 11th 2008, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

My tiger got Steiffed(Side note: Ostrich Plumes pattern on the afghan, kid mohair and baby alpaca doubled together.)

When our oldest was three, we found our house there in New Hampshire was mosquito central in the spring, there being a wetlands area nearby. We got to watch mallard ducks arrive in our back yard for awhile, eating the larvae, just, I guess there needed to have been a few more quacking back there.

She went out to play on the swingset one late afternoon and came back inside after fifteen minutes. One look at her and I was horrified. I stopped and counted, trying to wrap my mind around it: 64 little red welts growing–it was that fast. “Oh, my poor Jennie!” I exclaimed, very sorry I hadn’t bought bug repellent before I’d let her go out there, especially at that time of day.

She looked at me, and with the wisdom of a three-year-old that spoke of so many times to come when she would be able to shrug off bad things as something she could handle on her own just fine, more worried about upsetting me than about herself, offered thoughtfully, consolingly, “I’d be more poor if I got eaten by tigers.” I laughed and cried just a tear and scooped her into my arms to try to make it all better, knowing that only time would make the bites go away but a mom’s hugs helped both of us. Just amazed. Out of the mouths of babes.

And then our kids grow up…

Nina from my book and her daughter Amy just stopped by for a visit while Amy’s in town. Amy’s a young veterinarian, and her new home and job happen to be near a wildlife rescue center.

Which is why she was just telling my husband and me about one of her most memorable recent patients brought in, carried in in a cage; when I asked, she told me sure, I could blog it.

Cats are one thing. Um. The sick patient that came in their door was a three hundred pound lion. Well, let’s see, so many cc per pound of weight… An assistant drew up and delivered the dose after Amy calculated it, to knock it out so Amy could intubate it.

Sweet dreams. Okay, ready. So there’s Amy, at the lion’s head just about to go put the tube down its throat…

…and the lion roared. I guess it didn’t like that mosquito bite in its backside.

Note that there were no windows in that surgery room and no escape except, as she put it, “through the lion.”

Obviously, they got a second dose into that thing fast and everybody came out okay. But it makes a great story.

Besides, you’re not supposed to eat when you’re going to be under anesthesia.

Thursday April 10th 2008, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Maybe if he googles, somehow he’ll find this and I’ll get to reconnect after all these years and say hi. But I’m not going to breach his privacy by adding his last name in.

I was following some of Stephanie’s links, and came across this one. Scroll to the gorgeous steeked Norwegian sweater that the blogger had bought at a thrift store, even if it didn’t fit her–it was such a notable work of art, and for two dollars! My first thought was, your little girl will grow into that before you know it. It’s a cliche, but they do, little ones grow so fast.

My second, was, Jonathan.

I have no idea where in the world he is now. Jonathan was a lifeguard at the pool at the Betty Wright Swim Center, a place where you could only get in to swim with a doctor’s prescription to do so. I mentioned (shameless plug alert) in my book my going to swim therapy–Betty Wright is where I went for four years. Since everyone there had something going on that had brought them there, the place offered a deep sense of community; if a regular didn’t show for awhile, people started asking each other and the more outgoing ones would phone, just to make sure you were all right.

Most of the clientele was elderly. I was one of the babies of the group and my kids were little back then. My lupus diagnosis was quite new.

Then one day I happened across a garage sale at a church in our neighborhood and found a handknit Aran sweater, in the long lean style of the late 70’s at the time when the oversized 80’s had not finished fading into the future: knitted for someone tall and thin, well made, densely handknit on small needles proportionate to the yarn, quite warm. I had a 6’8″ husband and a 6’7″ uncle, so our kids were going to get height from both sides and our older boy looked like he had definitely gotten the tall genes. I looked at it and thought, I could put it away for ten years and wait, sure. At twenty-five cents? Goodness, if it only fit for ten minutes during his future growth spurt I’d still come out ahead!

So I bought it and carefully put it well away. There was certainly no hurry.

We were remodeling our old fixer-upper soon after. We packed up and moved into one end of the house while tearing apart the other, then six months later reversed the process. Everything not in immediate use was inside cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling. I’d written the contents on the outsides, but it seemed like every time someone dug through to retrieve something, what those boxes said and what they had no longer really matched, especially after a year.

One of the first complications I had had with my lupus had been the equivalent of a stroke that to this day messes with my visual memory, which before had been superb. It’s nowhere near as bad now as it was in those early days, when, on days when I was really tired, I wasn’t sure I could pick my own husband’s face out of a crowd if he held still–but give me the cues of his mannerisms, though, make him start talking and moving, and I had it. I remember my rheumatologist’s incredulous, “You recognize me by how I *WALK*?” I shrugged, Doesn’t everyone? When you don’t have the cue of the person’s voice? Worked for me.

So. I had one day where I was swimming laps, minding my own business, having a quiet morning and a little time off from the kids while my friend Lisa babysat them, when the thought came to me that I ought to offer Jonathan, one of the lifeguards, that sweater.

I resisted just a moment’s worth of strokes through the warm water, the thought passing through my mind in response, as if I were having a conversation, that, well, hey, I had been going to save that for my older son. The tall one. But the thought persisted, and it felt a happy one; okay, then. I’ll do it. I’ll offer him.

As soon as I decided to, I felt instantly quite cheerful and–this was so striking to me in the context of the recent and brutal-to-me agony over my new memory deficits–I knew EXACTLY where that sweater was! The box, the location, the sweater inside it. It had been moved, too, it turned out, from where I would have expected. But somehow I could picture it and I absolutely knew that my inner image was right. I couldn’t wait to see to confirm that. I mean, I just absolutely knew it was so, but, how, how could, and how did it get there… I hurried out of the pool, thanked Lisa, and ran to the spot.

Exactly there. Exactly inside. There it was. I wanted to jump up and down and shout for joy. Only thing is, I didn’t….really…know..why.

So now I was excited, but then how do you tamp that back down and go make the whole thing a reality without making a fool of yourself? And why should I? That, I had no idea of. Huh. Well, whatever, here goes.

I went back to Betty Wright. Jonathan was still there. I told him I had a beautiful handknit cream wool sweater, my only regret being that I hadn’t knitted it myself–I would have liked to have. But I thought it might fit him. Would he like me to get it? Would he like me to see if it might?

He was surprised, and touched, and said, warmly, Sure!

And so I gave it to him. I watched him handle it reverently, stroke its cabled textures, admire it, and put it on. And that moment he and I saw! If only its knitter could somehow have seen him. If only the knitter could somehow have known. It fit his long, tall, thin young frame absolutely perfectly. Not too tight on him at all. Not too long, not too short, not in the body, not in the sleeves, he totally Goldilocksed it. It was just right. And he loved that it had been created by some individual somewhere out of love for someone, and that he was somehow now the inheritor of that.

It wasn’t till awhile later, till he’d gotten over the surprise of it all, that he told me. Right before he left the second time.

His father had been a Jew from Iraq who had ended up in a WWII Japanese concentration camp (yes, Japanese). His mother had been English. He, with his lovely British accent, had actually been born and raised in Singapore, where, his parents not being native, he was not accepted as such either. He had no country to claim as home, no place to belong.

His father had come away from his wartime experiences angry at the very idea that there could be a God and if so that He’d let such things happen in His creation–no, there couldn’t be. And a loving God? With what he’d seen? Gimme a break.

Meantime, Jonathan got accepted into Stanford, got the lifeguard job as an internship part of his training, and hoped to settle in the US for good. This is a country that he could happily call home, if he worked hard enough.

And yet. He got a phone call one day from a friend in France, calling to say goodbye: calling to say he was about to kill himself. Jonathan desperately pleaded with him, no, no, wait till I can get there, I’ll be on the next plane, please let me see you, you’re my friend, I love you, you mean too much to me, please! He called whatever version of 911 there is in Paris, he called social services, he called everything he could think of, and then made good on his promise, spending every dime he had on the very next plane.

It worked. He saved his friend’s life. Last I heard, the fellow was hospitalized but at least had come around to see that he was glad for the intervention. Severe depression takes time and work at recovering from, but through Jonathan, he finally wanted to want to get better.

Jonathan returned here after a week and came back to his lifeguarding at the pool. The weather was getting cold. He told me later that he had looked in his closet wishing he owned a jacket, something warm, anything, and he simply didn’t own one. He had no money now to his name and no hope of doing a thing about it in his present circumstances. And he wondered, as he had many times in his life, if his father were right. He wondered if there was a God.

The very next morning, I was swimming those laps and suddenly picturing that box. That was the day I presented him with a custom-handknitted (even if the knitter never knew) warm, thick sweater that for this climate would work well for a jacket. From God’s hands to the knitter’s to his.

Jonathan’s abrupt departure caused a rift with one of his co-workers, and the upshot is that he lost his job. He lost his chance to stay at Stanford. He was forced to go back to Singapore, and where after that, I never knew. He lost everything he had been working towards, but he’d saved his friend’s life by giving his all for him.

I have prayed ever since that he would look at that sweater, wool from the hands of someone neither he nor I knew, each of us playing our part, and know who, at long last, he really was.

I herd it through the grapevine
Wednesday April 09th 2008, 1:00 am
Filed under: Wildlife

A skulk of foxes

A cacophony of crows

A screech of gulls

A charm of hummingbirds

A prickle of hedgehogs

An inflation of alpacas (possibly from the equivalent of tulipmania that happened in the US in the late 80’s, when their exportation out of South America was so tightly controlled? I’m totally guessing here)

A bored of directors (the ones that forgot to bring their knitting)

A surety of surgeons (yes, in fact, I did make that one up, even if it’s a malapropracticism. Okay, that was to make Sid Schwab laugh.)

An am-barrassment of amaryllises

amaryllis forest

And we will not speak of the yardages of yarns, nowaynohow.

There, that’s better
Tuesday April 08th 2008, 10:23 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knit

baby blanket for RachelRachel’s washable wool baby blanket.

And a few celebrants cheering it on.Picotee amaryllis joining the crew

New life
Monday April 07th 2008, 12:36 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,Life

Kathy’s baby’s blanket(This swatch’s worth isn’t a great shot of the colors, it’s still a bit damp in the blocking so I can’t move it near a window yet. It’s more a soft peachy-pink overall in real life.)

In the end, my pregnancy of this project only took two months; no back aches, no morning sickness, I’ve got nothing to complain about. I bought the superwash wool for it from my friend Karen the day she was closing up her shop for good, and I told her who I was going to knit it up for and why. She liked that. It gave her something to be happy about that day.

Which meant I felt obliged to make good on my word to her so that I could show it off to her and she could feel she’d played a part in the joy of the sharing. Which she had. I am debating blogging the little aside that the yarn was terribly splitty and thin and needed tiny needles and took forever and it was like knitting the world’s most monstrous sock for the tightness and it drove me nuts and hurt my hands. This baby was kicking me. Note that I did buy a competing superwash merino from Purlescence after I’d started and gave myself an out–I’m no angel. Heh.

And yet… Every time I stopped and really looked at the fabric that was coming out of my needles, I pictured it wrapped around Kathy’s baby. The Kathy in my book, my friend I grew up with, who’d just had her second baby. She told me that after the death of her father when we were in seventh grade, it had taken her awhile to learn to finally trust life enough to marry, to start a family. She was so glad she finally did. They had a little boy. And now they have a daughter, born near the time of my 49th birthday.

They named her Rachel.  After the grandfather she will only know through those who loved him, Ray. But that love is a powerful thing, and it does carry down through the ages, whether the person is present or no.

I have a lovely bit of wool here in its finished form, worth every minute of my time it took for it to come to be, to say so.

For the beauty of the earth
Sunday April 06th 2008, 6:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,My Garden

azaleasNot much UV at this hour. I ventured forth. Curious how many buds have opened up alongside the window on the azaleas, while the rest further away wait awhile longer: is it the extra warmth? The extra sunlight from the reflection?

The allium from outer space (don’t know if the squirrels planted it or the birds) doing a Bill-the-Cat impression:

funky violet thing, an allium from outer space

And inside. My tall Dancing Queens look different each year they bloom. From orchestra to jazz to a simpler folk melody sung along to a guitar, whatever may be playing, they dance freely with the tune.Dancing Queen amaryllis at three years old

In memory
Saturday April 05th 2008, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knit,Life

baby alpaca on organ(Okay, this was actually funny, I had a mysterious ghost of a post when I hit publish–where did most of the text and one picture go? Cut and paste, let’s try again. Hey, up there, I hear you guffawing. This is what I wrote:)

Hey, Albert up there (don’t we all do that?) if you’re looking: it’s done. Not finished–it needs water, it needs the blocking wires to stretch it and show more clearly the pattern that is already there, in each stitch following along its proper path as it connects to the next one over, stitch by stitch, row by row–but the knitting part. It’s done now.amaryllises (Dad’s and Lene’s)

Thanks, friend.

Friday April 04th 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

UV sensorI’m grieving, and today’s entry is sad. There’s a hero; there are villains. Skip it and wait till tomorrow’s, whatever it may be, if you’d rather; I certainly understand.

I wrote recently about my friends whom I brought dinner to when the wife had pneumonia, back when our kids were in elementary school together. Some may have noticed I put their first names in, when I did not do so for the other person in that story. It’s because Albert would have loved it, because that part of the story was complimentary to me. Writing about dinner is one thing; writing about the time in their lives when a caravan of satellite-uplink news vans was stalking their front door is another, and I have edited his wife’s name out now.

Albert would have been abashed, though, if he’d heard me mentioning the day they were late coming to our then-kindergartner sons’ school parade way back in the day, protesting that anyone else would have done the same thing: they were late. And when their car came to the tracks for the commuter trains that run up and down the Peninsula, the lights flashed and the warning gates came down, so they were going to be even more late. Well, crum.

There was a young mom with a toddler in a stroller on the sidewalk next to their car. Suddenly, she decided she was in too much of a hurry to wait, she could beat that train, just go. Albert and his wife stared in disbelief a moment, and then horror–the wheels of the stroller had gotten caught in the tracks. Stuck. The mom looked up at that oncoming train and froze, knowing full well in that instant what she had just done.

Albert instantly leaped out of their car, exclaiming, “She’s not going to make it!” while his wife sat frozen herself, sure she was about to witness the terrible death of all three. But Albert was an athlete, and he grabbed that stroller upwards and out while shouting at the mom, “I’ve got the baby!,” pulling her as well as her strapped-in child away just in the seconds the train was bearing down on them. It was right there. They were right there. Somehow they survived.

And they went on to the kindergarten parade. And the toddler, whoever it was, lived to see kindergarten himself. (Herself? Don’t know.) Plain old ordinary life. He would be in high school now. I wonder if his mother ever told him who saved him, and whether she saved the newspaper clippings of that day. I so much hope so. We all need true heroes, growing up.

When I was so ill at Stanford Hospital five years ago, I found comfort in praying for my friends, trying to keep my focus from being entirely centered around myself, that being one of the occupational hazards of being sick. I specifically prayed for Albert and his wife and their kids. It felt important that they be on my list. Enough so that I remember that, and I not long after that was marvelling over it with his wife.

What I’d had no idea of, was, Albert was in the emergency room at Stanford Hospital being treated one of those first few nights that I was doing that, probably at close to the same time. Because: that night, someone had reported a suspicious-looking man. The rookie cops had driven down the street, found a man sitting in his car, and decided he was clearly trouble. Because he was black. He was also 59. They later told the judge their behavior was justified because, when they’d ordered him to get out of his car–without cause or warrant or legality for the search they had decided to do–he’d opened it “too hard.” They beat him so viciously that, when he was finally able to tell me about the experience a year later, choking and tearing up at the memory, “I was sure I was never going to see my kids again.” His teenage kids needed him, and he hung onto that thought as the blows rained down, as they broke bone permanently out of his knee.

One of the by-then-grown kids he had once been a volunteer coach to happened by and saw it happen and recognized his beloved coach and testified against the cops. One Palo Alto Weekly newspaper account noted that half the children in the southern half of this city had had Albert coach them as a volunteer one time or another. He was good at that, he was a good man, he was actively committed to this community, and he cared deeply about all his kids.

Those two cops tried hard to find something they could charge him with but found themselves on criminal trial instead. Good. Albert worked hard at forgiving them completely and without reservation, actively praying for them, not half-heartedly; I told him I wanted to be him when I grew up. I think he did a far better job of that forgiving than I did. Me, I kept hoping those two cops would at least gain the basic human decency to apologize for what they did to my friend.

Last summer, Albert was playing basketball with his buddies, suddenly keeled over of a heart attack, and he was gone.

I still can’t fathom it. I still keep thinking I’ll run into him at the grocery store sometime. Or that I ought to stop by the high school.

He’d run our high school’s academic help center. I’d gone in there from time to quite infrequent time just to say hi for old times’ sake, and he loved the visits but the kids always came first. If any of them had a question or needed help, I had to wait. As well it should be. I remember his daughter coming in one day and watching his face light up when he saw her.

They are planting an oak tree in his name at that school today where my kids used to eat lunch outside. I want with all my soul to be there with them. I want to hug the family. I want the reunion and the tears that I know will be going on amongst so many old friends so dear and far too far with our kids now grown, to have the solace of company in my own grieving as well as to give solace. But you can’t rightly go to part of a memorial service, it’s got to be an all-or-nothing. I thought of all the things I can do, all the layers and sunscreens and shades and and and to protect me from the effects of the UV rays on my flaming autoimmunity, and I know from many years and many experiences with this lupus that I–just. can’t. go. Can’t be there for them. Not in person. It could be suicidal. It might very well cost me my eyesight. It could so easily put me back in the hospital with the Crohn’s when I’m on a last-ditch med already for it. It’s not *if* going would make me sick, it’s whether I would survive how sick it would make me.

His wife got a soft kid mohair lace shawl from me, large and cuddly and intricate and warm, probably half a dozen years ago. I will wrap thoughts of my dear friend Albert, of his wife, and of each of his children around me, and I will knit in his honor during the time of the ceremony, knitting on behalf of a young couple he would have loved had he gotten a chance to meet them. Two young people who have been through a hard time themselves and have been coming out the other side now to light and love. I will knit to continue the support that shows them they are deeply cared about. Albert would have loved that. Maybe I should bring them a chocolate cake, too. With sprinkles.

And I had not realized till I typed that last paragraph, I am knitting it in yarn that I dyed the same color as what I knitted for Albert’s wife. Somehow, that fits. And I did not realize till after I’d saved this draft to come back to later, that I had, for that matter, started the new shawl for that young wife in the same pattern as CH’s. Wow. We ARE all in this life thing together.

Goodbye, Albert Hopkins. You were a true friend always. This planet needs far more men like you, not one fewer.

New home construction
Thursday April 03rd 2008, 2:49 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

wool fluffs for nesting season“But, officer, it was really just way too big a stick for her, I was afraid she was going to trip and break her beak and then where would her babies be, I was just helping her out, honest…”

I put some wool roving out on the back patio a few weeks ago in anticipation of nesting season and waited. It stayed there. I thought that perhaps the dyed wool of previous years had been snatched up sooner (or was I trying too early), that maybe the red caught their attention better–I wondered, are birds colorblind?

Today I sat down to my emails and found myself being constantly distracted by jays and doves and shadows of who-knows-what flying sideways over and over across my vision; there are floor-to-ceiling windows to two sides in this room and a translucent awning on the patio just outside. And then suddenly I realized: the wool is gone.

I stopped and watched a mourning dove struggling with a stick that looked so big I didn’t see how she could possibly lift it, much less use it in a nest. But she wanted that one. She tried again and again, stubbing the end of it on the ground, not quite getting it balanced in her beak, not being able to simply open her wings yet and take off with it, not being willing to let it go despite the abundance of tiny twigs under that olive tree.

Then a large and brilliantly blue jay flew right in front of her, squawked loudly with its wings wide open, and rushed her. If that mousy little gray thing wants that one so bad it must be the best one in the yard. Mine. The dove spat out the stick, scuttling away fast. The bossy jay grabbed it in triumph and flew gleefully in the opposite direction. See? Not too heavy. Piece of cake. Mine.

Jay, honey, you are going to have fun when your kids are teenagers, with that kind of example to grow up by.

I went looking, then, and found some samples of carded wool so old that the sheep they’d come from had probably died of natural causes by now. I opened the little packages and pulled each one out. Sheep 101–now there’s a poetic name. 102, 103, …109. I pulled the almost-felted-by-now cottonballs of cotswald and romney and merino into fluffy bits and put them out on the patio.

The mourning dove watched me and who’d. Alright, bird. I hear you. I went back outside and moved some of the fluffs over to where that stick had been, safely further away from where the resident human perches.

So far she hasn’t come to it. But the jay did. It flew down away from the wool, *picked up a stick in its beak, dropped it, hopped closer, picked up another, repeat from * till length of time desired. It hopped to just shy of the wool, finally, considered a moment–what the heck was a herd of moorit and albino gophers doing here?–turned its head away, grabbed a tiny stick, and flew back off to the left like the first time.

Since I started typing this, I’ve seen two jays fly at it and consider it. Almost ready for it.

I’ll get you, my pretties, and your little friends too.

p.s. Lene, your amaryllis’s second bud just opened up. Here’s today’s shot of it. Happy spring!

Lene’s amaryllis blooms again