Better let it go!
Thursday June 30th 2011, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Life

I had a summer job in college back in the day working for a company that processed payroll for other companies. That’s right, kiddies: I was a keypunch operator. Ask your great-grandpa.

That meant a lot of names went by as I typed, and I used to keep a mental collection of the funnier ones.  Cherie Baum, for instance. (Was there ever a kid who didn’t get teased about their name?)

During college, I worked as a copy editor for one of the colleges on BYU campus and the other woman hired said she could never change her name when she got married; she’d been born a month before the book had come out, and nobody ever forgot Charlotte Webb.

Okay, so. On my way to Knit Night tonight, same old route, about to turn left, when over to the right was a company name emblazoned on a building where I’d never noticed it.

Ron Fetsch and Associates.

I have no idea who they are nor what they do, but I tell you, that’s a name you just can’t shake a stick at. (Just tell me his parents didn’t give him the middle initial N–and yes, I’m sure he’s heard it all. Whatever we go by, we all have.)

A Cooper’s when you need him
Wednesday June 29th 2011, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit,Wildlife

Some knitting’s been getting done.

An appleblossom amaryllis spent the day opening in slow motion–almost there. In June!

Pain at the news: some of the peregrine falcons nesting towards the north end of the Bay had abruptly disappeared. And we finally knew.

Two had been shot. They are in a rescue center and there is some hope they may make it; whether they can ever be released again is in question, though.

When that word went out yesterday, word came in today that a third had been found shot as well.  Someone had found it, called his local wildlife rescue, got no answer, didn’t wait, put it in his car and headed for the bird rescue center at UC Davis over two hours away, trying to save it. That peregrine didn’t survive. He apparently didn’t know about the falcon groups tracking the birds nor whom else to call till he saw the fliers asking for information in the neighborhood they were all found in.

This was devastating, but especially to those who’d spent their lives bringing that species back from the edge of extinction and who so rejoiced at every successful fledging.

Thank goodness for people who step up and do the right thing.  That man in Oakland tried. I’m sure he didn’t know it would mean anything to anybody but him at the time he did it, but his good impulse offers comfort when it is needed by many.

I was brooding over the new senseless casualty when I decided to put down the computer and just go and sit and knit. The birds at the feeder scattered, as they often do when I stand up, and I barely noticed but for the wren checking over its shoulder before diving for cover; I reached my perch at the couch and was about to sit down when–

–there he was. He flew in to the back of the dolly, which is behind that couch through the window, right there from where I was. My moving around had not scared him away from landing.

My bird. My big wild bird is okay. As if he’d wanted me to know that.

I will never cease to catch my breath at the sight of that beautiful, living, curious, intelligent hawk.

(Edited days later: I am sorry to have to add that there has been some question about the veracity of the report to the peregrine group about a third one having been found and its attempted rescue. There is a third one missing and its fate unknown, although, not all the ones out there are banded and personally known to us.)

Making a pest-o of itself
Tuesday June 28th 2011, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Life

Richard said to me first thing this morning that the fact that I hadn’t heard anything yet meant that it was sitting on someone’s desk because it wasn’t urgent; he wanted me to call them.

But the doctor said she’d…

Hey. Ask if I need to be pushed twice. I called.

I sat on hold, on hold, on hold. Then the young male receptionist came back sounding pressured and in a hurry. I gave him the requisite name, birth date, why I was calling–and added that I knew the doctor had said she was going to call and that I hoped I wasn’t being too antsy or causing problems, but if they did know anything yet on that biopsy, I would love to know.

His voice changed. Suddenly I was more than a name on a screen and a voice on the phone, I was a fellow human being; he did what he could for me and wished me the best and I heard in his voice that he meant it.

Not long after that, the doctor did call. She was saying things about nodular and tendrils and 5mm size plus the 2mm edges each side she’d gotten out with the biopsy and that she was going to have to take out more because–

–and I had to stop her a moment. Sorry, I didn’t hear; so–was it basal?

She started to apologize for going on before I’d caught that part; I think it bothered her that she was going to have to take out more of my hair forever than she’d wanted to. My question was reminding her about the good side of all  this.

Yes, she affirmed, the gratitude showing in her voice. It was basal.

Praise be.

Monday June 27th 2011, 10:07 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Food,Friends,Knit

I bet you Sue knows what I’m going to write about tonight.

1. But before I get there, I knitted a little Camelspin on the side today in a sudden hurry to get that done yesterday.

2. Nope, no phone call today from the doctor, or at least not while I was home, and no messages were left while I was out foraging for chocolate.

3. My daughter had a co-worker who, last Friday, was having a horrible, rotten, no-good-I-think-I’ll-move-to-Australia kind of day. (That’s the refrain on most of the pages of a certain children’s book–just to make that clear since one person who’s going to be reading this has a loved one who *did* move to Australia and who clearly has turned out very nicely for it.)

4. So I offered to bake a chocolate torte for them. (Here’s the recipe.)

5. Tomorrow is that person’s birthday, it turns out.

6. Well then!

and, 7, since I always make two of them, and since today’s our anniversary, and since Michelle can’t eat dairy, I substituted hazelnut oil for the butter, coming about two tbl short out of two cups needed for two cakes–close enough. We’ll call it the low fat version. I can’t begin to tell you how heavenly it smells.

8. Richard and I are home now from going out to dinner so we might go cut into that second cake if I stop typing a moment.

9. We went to the restaurant where Sue works, hoping to see her; for those of you who’ve read “Wrapped in Comfort,” (still available at Purlescence) it’s the first story, and yes, that Sue. Nope, they said, wrong night, not here, sorry.

10. On our way out I explained to our waitress why I’d so hoped to see her: how, when we moved here we came here a lot while on a per diem the first month, and how 20 years later she still remembered what my then-small kids had liked to eat. She loved my kids and we all adored her.

11. At that point, a different waitress exclaimed, “She’s here now!” Sue and her husband had decided to beat the heat and go out for dinner too, coming to this really great place they happened to know really well.

12. Hugs, love, intro to her husband, and then Sue told him that our kids were the best ever. “Some kids in restaurants, you know, but yours were always perfectly behaved.”

13. They were just shy of 1, 3, and 5 at the time; I don’t remember them being perfectly behaved. But I do remember them as being perfectly loved around her. Every parent of a small child needs some other adult who feels their kids are adorable: it helps the children and it helps the parents, too, to all rise to the occasion.

Sue was there. Our occasion got even happier. She laughed to her husband about my four year old who liked lobster. (It was a moving-expense per diem, the corporation didn’t care in the least what she ordered as long as it was below $25. Come to think of it, four-year-olds ordering lobster several times a week because they miss New Hampshire would be memorable.)

14. Happy anniversary, Richard! With no skunks this time.

(If that one of the three budding amaryllises turns out to be white, I’ll know it was the one Sue dropped off at Purlescence for me back when I was sick. Thank you, Sue!)

Love you, Richard!

Winging it
Sunday June 26th 2011, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

God’s answer to my interminable wait for the biopsy report.

That’s two evenings in a row: I saw my Cooper’s hawk flying across the yard to the right, chasing dinner–and a moment later he surprised me by flying right back and perching on the back of the chair in front of the feeder to look me in the eye for a goodly minute. I would have set it there long ago had I known he would like it so.

Tonight I was walking into the family room with its wall and a half of glass and saw him after a finch and away; I sat down, glad for my hawk sighting for the day, when again he immediately turned around and came back, landing this time on the patio, looking not for prey but at me–but his view was a little obstructed there, so he fluttered up to that chair back.  He seemed to clearly want to look me in the eye again.

From maybe a dozen feet away. Glorious.

He shuffled his feet, wiggled his tail, settled in. Tucked his head down, still eye-to-eye, lifted one of those giant feet of his and scratched himself behind the head, casually fluffing those neck feathers up. All relaxed, looking for all the world as if he were about to launch into a story for me.

Pull up a chair and welcome home. It’s all good here.

Condors and kids
Saturday June 25th 2011, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

The qiviut is humming along nicely now. It’s hard to put it down.

Meantime, there’s been a lack of Parker pictures because I nearly killed off my aging computer trying to take on a lot of them, so this is a cell phone shot: Parker, six months now, and his two-month-old cousin, Kim’s sister’s daughter. It tickles me no end: every kid should have a cousin their own age, and these two are going to grow up close by each other.

On the wildlife front, two days ago there was a sudden flipping the lights off and on behind me and then again in front of me, all in a near-instant as I looked out at the backyard–only, it was bright midday: it was the sun, the windows blocked as wide wings flew over the house. Wow.

The headline in the paper the next morning was all about five juvenile California Condors, the oldest being five, maturation at six, seen partying together on Mount Hamilton in San Jose the day before; the story talked about how they can fly 150 miles in a day, etc.

I’m assuming the shadow was from my Zone-tailed hawk I’ve seen before, which is certainly big enough, given that it can reach the entire keyboard on my piano and then a bit. But it’s so cool knowing there were five (!) Condors so close by, where none had been in a hundred years, shooting the breeze, swapping eagle stories and those parental puppets?–nah, never fooled me a second, you? Nah… Well yeah, I thought he was condor funny looking, myself.

No fudging allowed. Not one stitch.
Friday June 24th 2011, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

A male Nuttall’s woodpecker–I’ve seen a pair dancing around each other on the tree trunks of late, I’m hoping they set up housekeeping here–landed on the birdfeeder this morning, something I’ve never seen before. The quarreling house finches tried to play their games with him while he was trying to figure out how to stand on this perch here and get food out of that port there, being taller than they, and he would have none of their harassment–he would turn to them with that sharp beak of his and stand them quickly down and go back to his efforts: there is food here. Clearly. The trunk of this thing doesn’t do diddly, how do they all do it, okay (Go away chirpface!), and at last he leaned over just so and snatched himself a seed.

I said to somebody yesterday that knitting is therapeutic: if it doesn’t come out just the way you want, you can relive the hours you spent on it and by golly make it come out exactly right.

I got called on that today.

I knitted a lace repeat on my qiviut project, looked at it and there was no way around it. Out. As I reknit it I thought, well, at least I learned something useful that I can apply to the design. I was gratified  at how well such a fragile-looking yarn stood up to being ripped out yet again.

Except there was more to learn. When I was in my Kaffe Fassett colorwork phase years ago, back when I knit  a coat with 68 shades of wool and mohair and then a second in 86 shades just to beat his after my husband happily claimed the first for his own, I learned that a color will look different if you put it next to this one vs that one.

Lace patterns do the same thing. Who knew.  (Well, I did, but we’re talking particular details here.) After five hours of knitting… I get to go see exactly how this many stitches at this gauge will fit after it’s off the needles, no guessing anymore, because everything I did this afternoon is again frog-centric.

I have hopped around enough perches by now.  I have sown enough seeds. Now I’ll be able to get this design to come out exactly how I want.

(A little later, frogging finished, a fair amount knitted up again: the yarn is just ever so slightly fuzzier, almost imperceptibly so from any distance–but the hands know, and the neck will. Soft soft soft.)

On my way to knit night
Thursday June 23rd 2011, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Life

I turned left onto the main road near the pedestrian underpass to the commuter train station. The road there has five car lanes, two bike lanes, and an island in the middle.

With all that walking to do and that underpass to get to, it’s one of the intersections that has a countdown for those on foot along with the white hand on the WALK sign, going to a flashing red hand the last ten seconds, then the usual solid red DON’T WALK. If you’re a driver looking sideways at it, at least you know how long the wait is going to be–and it’ll be a lot longer than if  a car tripped the signal.

They looked twenty-something. The guy looked like he’d finally gotten the cute girl to talk to him, and she was pleased too; they sauntered, their attention on each other.

And they had not pushed that button. Their light was green, the hand stayed red, and I kept a careful eye on them as well as my own red light above their crosswalk.

Another driver came down the ramp to the right, that fifth lane, and stopped; he, too, was watching those kids.

Who suddenly noticed that the light had totally turned and we were stopped for them at our green. They glanced to their right–and ran!

Because, and I didn’t see it till too late to react (or…), a red car was barreling down that middle lane at full speed, the limit there at 45. The young man stumbled, trying to protect her, I think the girl stumbled too then, and I fully expected to see their bodies careening into the air. My immediate instinct, and apparently the other stopped driver’s too, was not to honk for fear it would distract the kids for even a nanosecond.

They made it just in front of the nose of the other stopped car. The red car never did slow down. I don’t know if that driver ever even knew.

We have to look out for each other in this life. We *have* to be willing to see to the extent we humanly can.  Why others are reacting the way they are, what it might mean, how we can do something that makes their world a little better and therein our own. Thank you dear God for looking out for every single one of us there, and most especially that couple, in that moment tonight.

Small favors
Wednesday June 22nd 2011, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit,Wildlife

I found a new amaryllis bud today, a Dancing Queen, one of my favorites. How did I miss seeing that coming up earlier! I brought it inside next to the first one just to make sure nothing out there develops a taste for the flowers, giving it a good watering.

The male Cooper’s showed up this evening and this time we all got to see him together.

Michelle: “That’s a big bird!”

Richard, appreciatively: “Just wait till he spreads his tail.”

Me, after we all watched him fly away at last: “There’s a flock of finches and endless doves but only one hawk pair. They’re individuals.”

Meantime, this is what the qiviut looked like this afternoon. I lay in bed last night, sleepless, wondering why on earth the C word should seem any worse in the dark than anything else when it probably wasn’t even a bad version, and thought about what I most wanted to do next–and this was it. It won’t take me very long to work on but it is exactly what I need right now: the pure qiviut is soft (well *yeah*), it is lovely, and I am knitting with the confidence I was lacking on the first try that I have the pattern worked out exactly the way it should be done. I know more now. It feels good.

Michelle exclaimed yesterday over the Epiphany project when I twirled it around my shoulders off the blocking to see; she agreed with me that it was one of my prettiest ever (the way one should always feel at the end of a project)–and now it is ready to be mailed. From Epiphany to Lorraine’s qiviut: I’m glad I have had these to soothe my fingers and my eyes and my soul. That, and the presence by whatever means possible of my family and friends. You have helped so much, and I am so grateful.

Friends from church came over today and scrubbed my car for me just because I can’t, I can’t be in the sunlight where I would be able to see what I was doing and it has a crack in the windshield so I can’t do a drive-through. They stepped in and took care of all that, borrowing my vacuum and an extension cord too and cheerfully working away till it was perfect. Wow.

One day down, the rest of a week to go…

I needed that like a hole in my head
Tuesday June 21st 2011, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A mole, been on the back of my face about eight years now, and suddenly last week there was a small second one behind it, same color.

Oh come ON. Just because my child has melanoma doesn’t mean…

Wait a minute… I dabbed my finger under the tap to get a little water on it, scrubbed at the spot and looked in the mirror again.

A splash of hot cocoa. That’s all it was.

The dermatologist laughed today when I told her that–classic, classic, and she told me she’d had a few patients she’d seen for similar reasons, as she checked out the rapidly growing lump in my scalp that had been a barely-there pinprick around, oh, I dunno, maybe December when we first noticed it? I assumed it was a lupus lesion and had asked to make sure, then after the rheumatologist ignored it I did too.

Richard’s been bugging me. Being married to a very tall man can really come in handy.

“Oh yes. It is,” then she immediately reassured me she was very sure it was just basal; cut it out and it will all be gone.

She had gotten my note yesterday about my daughter and my head and had immediately cleared a path to see and biopsy me today. Results next week. She will call me and we will set a time for my Mohs surgery–so, yes. I have skin cancer too.

p.s. The final pathology report came in today for my Sam: they did indeed get all hers. No chemo. Done. To quote her, “I will, of course, have to be monitored the rest of my life but that’s a small price to pay for having a life to live.”

Train of thought
Monday June 20th 2011, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There was a black squirrel doing a Salvador Dali/Wicked Witch of the West performance piece; I’m melting. Melting!

I refilled the water out there and went back to knitting up very warm fibers, grateful for air conditioning.

Ninety-nine degrees at 6:00 and sitting in the car waiting for Michelle’s commuter train to pull in, I wondered: who opened the door and let all the northern California out?

Wings of the wind
Sunday June 19th 2011, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

(Knit knit knit.)

I was thinking it was about that time of the evening, and looked up to see him fly in and land on the back of the chair. Someday I’ll get a good picture! He was facing me straight on, as he’s been doing of late.

There was a squirrel now cowering under that chair.

The Cooper’s and I looked at each other steadily: you are here.


You are here.


A long minute’s rest from all cares. He turned his head once, finally, like a small child being shy around a smiling grown-up.

Slowly, cautiously, a pointed black nose came up at the front of the chair and the squirrel just started to reach a paw, maybe two, I only saw one, as if thinking about hoisting himself up to see–when, clearly, he saw, and scampered back under.

Wings and tail seemed to spread wide in such slow motion, and yet the hawk was gone at the speed of a blink.

A basket? Case.
Saturday June 18th 2011, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

A friend who belongs to a CSA sent out word that her farmer had excess strawberries to sell and that if she could find takers for enough big cases, he would deliver them to her house.

Twenty dollars was a lot of just-picked ripe red sweet-smelling goodness.

Strawberry picking getting up very early on a June morning, before the 100/humidity+heat hits the top of the misery index in Maryland, was an essential part of my childhood–along with hours afterwards spent around the hot kitchen table, we six kids anchored in place by Dad working too at the head of it, hulling, Mom a few steps away at the stove. If Dad couldn’t get out of it either after all those hours bent over looking for fruit over and under those green leaves and was cheerfully working away at his mound of berries, then there was no hope of a kid weaseling out. None. Trust me.

So often, we would try to pun-up each other, starting off with a lame “I can’t believe I ate the hull thing”–but if you could make Dad roar with laughter it was definitely triple word score time.

Counting and anticipating: jar, jar, blinks and it’s all gone. (I know. Sorry. Reminding you of that movie is like singing “Feelings” in earshot. Woe woe woe your boat done with these–when we’re jamming, it gets bad.)

It was a knife idea at the time
Friday June 17th 2011, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

I hadn’t seen any hawks, neither the male nor the female nor any grandhawks yet this year, for about a month. And then suddenly in two days I have four times now, the adults.

The patient’s doctor was on vacation; the person covering decided not to wait for him but to get the results and to get the results to the patient.  Dermatology had wanted three months for an appointment to do the biopsy and the patient’s doctor had decided not to wait for them. The patient was too young to have melanoma and the lesion didn’t look like what melanoma is typically supposed to look like; he had decided not to wait till it did nor till the patient got reasonably older. The surgery center wanted to wait several weeks to do the operation; the person covering said NO you do my patient NOW.

The biopsy results came Wednesday. Melanoma.

The surgery was today, Friday, with no time to think out what one might need to do to prepare for the post-op period, just GO.

Aggressive but very shallow and declared stage one, still. They do believe they got it all.

And while we were talking to the not-too-groggy patient, the mama Cooper’s hawk caught dinner and prepared the meal (no blood and guts within sight, very tidy) right in front of us, laying out her picnic on our back lawn as we talked. A down feather got caught in her beak for several minutes till she finally managed after several tries to pull it off with her talons–the proverbial spinach between the teeth while people are watching.

My husband and I described to our loved one this gorgeous raptor capturing a share of our day. Somehow, when we need one, they always show up.

When the patient, far from us, needed it, friends became family and I will love them forever for it; they very much showed up over there.

When the patient needed that doctor to follow their gut intuition regardless, that doctor completely showed up for us all.

There’s a doctor out there who deserves a whole whack of knitting from me.

All in the family
Thursday June 16th 2011, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The phone rang at the end of January.  My in-law said the tests were positive and yes, it had metastasized.

The phone rang three days later. Different in-law.  Yes, it was.

The new news came yesterday. Protesting that three’s a crowd does nobody any good and there is much we do not know yet; what we do know gives much room for hope.

Trying to process it all: I write, I knit.

And I looked up in the early afternoon while typing to Chan: on the roof of the shed, with the awning blocking my view, all I could see was the feet and the wing and tail tips that had just arrived. The dove on the patio freaked and ran straight up and towards it; those big feet and feathers turned leisurely to enjoy the pizza delivery.

I think less than an hour later, he settled in on the back of that chair I talked about yesterday and simply stood and looked me in the eyes. He wasn’t looking for prey.

It was a moment of sharing in all Creation.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

My thoughts flew upwards on his wings and a prayer.