May her wisdom live on through us all
Friday February 09th 2024, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

People who grew up here. People whom I hadn’t seen in twenty, even thirty years and probably won’t ever again. A guy I dated briefly in college. (“Wally.” He looked behind him and didn’t see anyone he recognized. I pulled my face mask down, said his full name this time, and he exclaimed, Alison!”) My kids’ old middle school art teacher, long retired. My daughter-in-law’s dad and uncle, who grew up here, and her brother–we surprised each other.

Jim flew in, too, and played the organ. Ruth Ann flew in and played her violin: friends of Jean in her later decades. The chapel’s folding doors at the back were opened to make room for the overflow of people celebrating 98 years so lovingly spent.

The friend doing chemo for Stage 4 whom I thought didn’t come out in public anymore sat a few seats down from me: this, she had to be there for. She had grown up here and never left and people she knew came and what a reunion it was.

I mentioned to Wally that her brother had married someone I grew up with in Maryland. He liked that.

And of course, wait for it, there it was: the toddler great-grandchild who started to pitch a fit at the front and his mom reluctantly started hauling him out of there. A vivid orange octopus with eight i-cord-knitted tentacles and suddenly they were seated next to me near the back and happy and the mom got to hear the rest after all.

The final speaker was one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as he told us more about his beloved mother.

The room was full of people who’d known him as a boy and who get how he’d become someone asked to share the love from Christ with the whole world: it was his mom. Pearl Harbor survivor, third grade teacher, surrogate loving mother-figure to all.

And his dad, too, gone these many years now. Much was felt and said of his being able to embrace his sweet Jean again at long last.

Super blooms
Thursday February 08th 2024, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

I bought these bulbs in early Fall of 2000. I will always know when. The bag was a mixture of types and I should have realized they wouldn’t all bloom at the same time for the look I was hoping for, but over time I’ve been just as glad. All these years of mostly drought and a few of heavy winter rains later, they just keep coming up, staggered by both time and its inadvertent spacing rather than a tidy row all at once.

And every year they remind me.

I had so been looking forward to having them blooming along the walkway.

Then my car got rear-ended and slammed into a third car and the world spun around and it wouldn’t stop. Bright and shiny things were RIGHTTHERE at my nose and dull things were far away and my eyes tried to argue but my brain would collapse my left side.

That speeder had taken a lot away from me but he was not going to take away my daffodils. I got down on my knees and with my left hand held onto the ground (held it up, it felt like) that wanted to smack me in the face and with the right hand I dug down and planted. It was frustrating, it was hard, it took a long time, and my brain didn’t know whether to throw up or just cry.

But then there was the satisfaction that I had done it. I had planned it, I had made it happen, I had done the work no matter how hard it was to do and I was going to get to see flowers every spring. Tulip bulbs, I had learned, were total squirrel catnip but daffodils they won’t go near.

My eyes gradually learned how to overrule my brain. Balance is still tactile and visual and a cane is my extra sensory perception mode, my left side still sometimes goes wonky–bump me from behind where I can’t see you coming and we’ll have our own sudden game of Calvinball.

There was the extreme drought year where I got leaves but only a single blossom at the end of the walkway–and it disappeared while we were at church. The then-toddler’s mom laughed with me years later when I told her where he’d absconded with it from.

These were knocked down by Sunday’s huge storm. They picked themselves right back up–not bolt upright but neither are the flowers smacked face down in the mud any more, either. They want to be seen.

While the next patch is getting ready to open up. There will be another bunch after that, and another after that.

They are a forever reminder of the passing of time and how good life has been. Even that was worth it. It has to be, it’s not like I had a choice so it is, but, it actually is.

It helped me learn which way up is.

Part silk makes the apricots glabrous
Wednesday February 07th 2024, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

(I.e, glossy and smooth.)

I’ve now finished the tree nearest the water up there and the fifth one at the end of the row has begun. Slowly, the water is channeling right and towards it.

The sandy areas on the left are from the force of the water coming against that turn before relaxing below.

Do I continue with the apricot (right) and peach (left) look, or do I throw in some red fruit in the next set? Cherries? Purple plums? Or Golden Nugget plums from Andy’s Orchard in yellow. So good!

But then you’d have to explain them all the time. Nah, probably not.

A penny for your frosts
Tuesday February 06th 2024, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

I’ve seen this idea. I’ve thought hey, that would actually be a good idea. And then I’ve forgotten all about it.

Woke up this morning going, maaaan. The Crohn’s? A blockage after eating that bit of sweet potato? (Ding ding ding we probably have a winner. It’s an ostomy thing.) Was it something that should have been thrown out after the power was out for five hours Sunday? But we never opened the freezer, and then last night it was why save the good stuff when Wednesday’s another storm, right?

He said he seemed normal enough.

So it was just me, then, and I hadn’t eaten anything he hadn’t. I spent the day trying not to get dehydrated; by dinner time I chanced a little solid food. It was encouraging, and I should be fine by morning.

So. The good idea?

Take a paper cup. Fill it most of the way with water. Put it in the freezer. Put a small coin on top of the now-ice and add just a few more drops so it stays in place after the cup is put back in the freezer. (Edit: just put it there and the penny’s lower surface immediately freezes in place.)

If you have a power failure, check afterwards to see whether the penny dropped.

Better to toss the chicken than the cookies, but that way you’ll know if you actually need to.


Coming together
Monday February 05th 2024, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Knit

Let’s see if I can kind of splice these two sides together for you.

I am enough further along from this now that the fourth tree in the second row on the right has begun, and there will be a fifth one eight rows above it to give a sense of the hillside.

One of the things about commercial orchards is that rather than hand-prune every single tree in the off-season, they drive machines down the rows that simply flat-top everything.

Here come ol’ Flat Top he come, groovin’ up slowly

Sunday February 04th 2024, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Our average annual rainfall is 12-15″. We got 3″ in two days, and I know the southern part of the state has had it much much worse.

That was the first power failure in memory where it was the oven that I didn’t open for fear of letting the temp escape. The blueberry muffins came out okay enough.

There had been a flash, and then part of the house had power, three rooms did not, and in several rooms, you’d flip the switch, think, well not that one, and then two seconds to, in one case, five minutes later, the light decided to turn on after all.

Except only halfway.

The hallway bathroom looked like it was auditioning for Halloween.

The oven was out.

The microwave could still helpfully offer a timer?

The computers were out.

The fridge was out.

The big freezer in the garage was out, but its temperature alarm was not.

Basically, anything that took a lot of power was cut off, and the house was starting to get cold.

The printer, unasked for, suddenly woke up every ten minutes on the nose and made sounds like it was printing. Bizarre.

And yet, most of the lights were in fact still on. You just couldn’t cook nor access any food that wasn’t shelf-stable–a definite heads-up that we need to buy soup or something and in sizes that won’t have leftovers. Yay for only slightly soggy blueberry muffins.

We looked at the breakers. He flipped some. Then I did, one at a time. The notations for what each goes to was written in pencil 35 years ago by the electrician and there was no way, so it meant turning one off, running inside, seeing what effect if any that had on anything in any room, flipping it back on in the rain and trying the next one as the camphor tree helpfully threw leafy bouquets at us. We were wondering if our wiring had been fried in that flash.

It didn’t seem like a power failure and yet it was acting enough like one that I finally said I would call the city.

City Utilities, said my phone, had a number to call to make a voltage report.

So this was actually a thing?

‘Known problem. 8:30,’ the recording promised.

At 8:37 the lights in the room where I was knitting an afghan row suddenly went out. I didn’t get up to get the flashlight across the room because they were still on in the living room and down the hall when suddenly oops, no they weren’t.

He tells me that means that of the two 110 volt lines going into the house, they cut one and then the other to work on them but for the sake of electronics they should have done both at the same time.

Me, I’m just glad for people who are willing to be out working in that storm with such hazardous wires flailing around them in the winds. To not have to replace a thousand dollars worth of food in the freezer for the second time in a few months.

The heat kicked on as I sat down to write this right after I had my computer back and man, it feels good.

The light in the front entryway refused to be resuscitated. That is a problem I can handle.

Update: the official rain monitor went down with the power failure at 3:46 pm and it has not yet been rebooted, so that three inch tally means up till that point.

Saturday February 03rd 2024, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

I kept thinking of her all day that day, and wondered.

Her husband went blind from diabetes. He was on dialysis for years.

My kids were young and my lupus was new.

After reading Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” I decided the author was right, I needed a new creative outlet. The smocked dresses I’d made my little girls–the arthritis meant I couldn’t do those very fine needles anymore.

But then what?

I was at the library with the kids when Kaffe Fassett’s first book about fell off the shelf into my hands. Glorious Knits. Sweaters and coats in dozens of colors (which I’m convinced were the starting point of the painted-yarns industry: all the color work but not the strands to untangle nor the ends to work in.) I hadn’t knit since college and couldn’t do anything like that in a million years but I was sure going to ogle those pictures. Especially the ones at a Dutch amaryllis farm.

Could I knit? With physical therapy help for my hands and big enough needles, yes.

I made a dozen Kaffe Fassett designs over the next few years.

But when I wanted something simpler or portable, having no idea how to do lace, I was making triangle scarves in plain stockinette. They worked up quickly and they were brainless. You didn’t have to haul fifty skeins everywhere. They always fit.

I splurged and bought a little bit of angora at the late great Straw Into Gold in Berkeley.

At church, Jean admired the scarf it quickly turned into.

It took her a long while, but eventually she made me a request.

It was not for a showy Kaffe Fassett, beautiful though those were.

Walter, she told me, couldn’t see–but he could still feel. Would I be willing to knit her a scarf like that? In angora? For him, for her wearing of it, for the softness to comfort him?

How could I not?

Jean, a Pearl Harbor survivor, had family gathered around celebrating her 98th birthday on Wednesday, a few days early. But it was time to be together now.

She quietly slipped away afterward to the waiting love of her life whom she had missed for so very very long.

They are together again. Their joy is so strong even I can feel it.

Apricot tree in the fog
Friday February 02nd 2024, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

I finally figured it out. Yes, muscle fatigue plays into my not wanting to keep knitting this for too many hours a day–and yet, after working on it I do want to keep knitting, just something simple.

It isn’t the complexity. I can handle separating and untwisting tangled strands just fine.

It’s that about half the stitches require active decisions on the spot as they make their way across the needles.

I’m finding that the further along it gets, the easier that part is, too, because I can see how it’s coming out and I really do like what I’m doing.

Wild’s ride
Thursday February 01st 2024, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Life

News media: Twelve year old Australian girl cleaning her guinea pig’s cage outside on a summer day suddenly finds her beloved pet being eaten by a snake, screams, grabs the snake’s tail end, and as caught on their security camera swings it around and around and around and around hard at full speed till it lets her guinea pig go (it was fine) as her dad and dogs come running out there.

I’m just picturing the snake’s reaction: Well, that meal took a turn!

Slow and steady
Wednesday January 31st 2024, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Knit

Lisa asked if I were knitting this freeform.

I did sketch a sketch, but it looked nothing like what’s coming out.

The beginning edging had been done for awhile so I laid it out and figured, okay, from here to here will be for this and then from here to here, this, and then there. The eye needs things in thirds to be satisfied.

The more I get done the more I’m liking it. Which, frankly, is a relief.

One thing I learned from knitting my sister Carolyn’s house is how important it is to get it onto two long circular needles while it’s in progress and lay it out like that repeatedly from early on to really assess how it’s going; hers would have had a lot more flowers in the area I was reserving to maybe add her driveway later if it needed it, maybe just a chain-stitch-effect outline of a one?–but that was never going to be. All scrunched up on the needles, it looked like the wide green space in its absence was fine. But it was out of proportion.

I’m still tempted to knit a freestanding deer to plant in her front yard.

So. I took my own advice today, found the other pair of afghan-length 8s again, and spent about an hour just considering the thing laid out flat and open. Did other stuff, came back to it, stared some more. I debated making paper figure cut-outs to lay above it here here and here but finally just got down there on my knees and pantomimed it with my hands because I’m lazy like that: this many rows or stitches between trees equals this distance, this height means this much separation, etc.

So now that I know what the final amount of the Willow green will be, I’ve figured out what the next part is, roughly how far it will go, and how to visually balance it with the beginning. (Or that is the hope.)

I’m on it.

Just don’t ask for the specifics yet on what comes after that.

It’s a goodly hike
Tuesday January 30th 2024, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was working out my options as I knitted. I will have three 150 g cones of the Willow green when the new one arrives. It is being worked across the back of every stitch outside of the waterway when it’s not actually being knitted itself. I used twelve (correction: 15) cones on Carolyn’s afghan. Um.

Those fruit trees. Andy’s Orchard, my own out back, and…

Our family went to pick-your-own farms every summer when we were kids. Our bomb shelter–we didn’t have a basement, we had a Cold War bomb shelter built into the house–was full of row after row after row of jars. We would drive early in the morning to a farm, then spend the afternoon sitting around the kitchen table hulling strawberries and pitting cherries and the like. So many times we would start with a pun and then stretch it like taffy to forever and back as we worked, Dad at the head egging the wordplay on, the six of us around the table, one sibling I won’t name who would groan and wish we’d stop because that one was sounding pretty ridiculous by now and Mom at the stove (one potato two potato, with peaches lowered into boiling water briefly for peeling) or the blender, throwing in zingers herself. Wordplay was our verbal knitting equivalent against the tedium of the task.

There is nothing in the world like huge dead-ripe peaches that you climbed into the trees for being served up in a pie in January.

We discovered Catoctin Mountain Orchards and ended up going there the most.

Which was near our favorite Catoctin Mountain State Park. If you hike the trail from the picnic area for long enough, you come to a beautiful waterfall coming down and feeding into the creek you’d just been walking beside.

New idea. I could knit it that way. I could turn it into browns and grays and a picnic table and blue tumbling waterfalls over the near-vertical gray rock; not having enough Willow wouldn’t have to matter much.

I checked Colourmart yet again because you never know when someone’s reserved cart might release one. Nope. Ravelry stashes. Nope. They had 8-plied this line of lace weight for me. (The Rusty Custagno is my tree trunks. Gloriously soft stuff but not on sale anymore, sorry, but this is doubled the weight of it and $22.)

Sometimes, just sometimes, they have an unlisted cone or two. They’ve been known to rescue people caught up short.

Sue over in England must have been the person who filled my order yesterday because when I sent a message today asking if by wild chance there might be any more and how I’d goofed and why I was asking, she answered, that we do, and said she would check in the morning for me.

Hopefully she’ll find some. Good folks there.

No pressure, Sue.

So either way it’s going to work out but I can only guess at how this picture is going to go from here. It’s hiking its own trail and taking me along for the sight/seeing.

(Update: she found two. Wonderful! They are on their way.)

Purple cowl a fragilistic expedite all options
Monday January 29th 2024, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Lupus

I got hours of portable knitting in, but it was nonstop with no way to so much as walk out of the room for a break, with a fine, slippery cashmere/silk on very slick needles that the stitches kept wanting to leap off of. My hands needed to stop after that.

Not that I’m complaining. It’s good to see that 2019 Stitches West skein finally starting to live up to its endless sweet-talking promises.

Today was, at long last, the day for the retina surgeon.

He was thorough, he took his time, he asked for questions, he gave plenty of info so that I could begin to figure out what to even ask, he came highly recommended by other eye doctors, and I came away feeling like they were right–I’m in great hands here.

Did the lupus have anything to do with this?

Maaaaaaybeeee? he answered. We really don’t know enough yet. But, (scrolling through past meds) are you still on Humira? That’s a great anti-inflammatory, it could help with this.

No, that stopped working. ’09, colon’s gone, I’m off it.

Had I ever had iritis?

Yes, probably 30 years now, and narrowed optic nerves (we both knew that means autoimmunity at the eyes) but they had no baseline at the time.

Did I need surgery?

Yes. He could set it up right now. It won’t be like cataracts, where you go in with impaired vision and walk out marveling, I can see! It will be a gradual improvement over time, but improve it will.

But mine was not an emergency. Yet. He wanted to know how I was doing with it.

Well, I said, I have this small pill I have to split every day; it has a cut line down the center. I can see it fine with my left eye; I am totally blind to it with my right, with the pill itself fuzzed out. Reading has gotten hard (although I still do a lot of it) and I find myself holding things to the left side, which was always my bad eye. But the brain compensates and I wouldn’t even have known there was a loss of the center of vision if I didn’t shut the left, just that fine/small things seem difficult. Lines of text wobble in height and intensity.

I didn’t say, And it’s been a strong motivation to knit everything! Right now! Don’t wait!

He compared November’s screening at the optometrist’s to today’s. He could schedule it or he could give it a wait-and-see for two or three months to see how it goes.

I asked him, If it were your eye what would you do?

He considered that a moment. The latter.

Reassurance and a plan felt great. April, then, for a re-check and a decision then, and most likely we’ll schedule it then.

The receptionist, trying to warn me about the time involved with such screenings, told me, Set aside three to four hours for it.

Yeah. (I almost held up my project.) I know.

I’ll bring an easier wool and needles for flying a bit blind with those eye drops.

Sunday January 28th 2024, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Knit

Three rows/two knitting hours ago, when there was still daylight.

I went back and checked my old high school classmate’s photo of Cabin John Creek, and not having looked at it in some time, I actually pretty faithfully followed the picture so far–only, I flipped it. I had no idea.


The trails alongside the creek were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps courtesy of President Roosevelt during the Great Depression and ran past the neighborhood I grew up in. I can tell you which slab of rock has the pile of leaves next to it that you’d best not step into lest you and the snake underneath suddenly race in opposite directions faster than you knew you could go.

Terrible Teresa smiles and says, I’ll take the one in the middle
Saturday January 27th 2024, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Knit

(A Shel Silverstein quote.)

Do not start a major project in intarsia at night when you have cataracts. Cataracts decrease the amount of blue you can see.

This afternoon I found myself suddenly needing, couldn’t tell you why, to doublecheck on my kilogram of the background color I was working with.

All there was was what was right there. Two big balls, one on each side of the river.

But that can’t possibly be!

It was.

I went through everything, stepped away awhile to take a deep breath, and then went through everything again.

Well but I could…

…That wouldn’t look great and you know it.

Well I…

It took me four hours to realize that even though I was sure Colourmart was sold out of it from their sale, maybe they actually weren’t? I absolutely hadn’t been going to buy any more yarn right now, but…

That, and, I checked out my Purchase History. Yup. That color. Two.

They did, they had one single 150 gram cone of the Willow left and I ordered it immediately, twisted to an 8-ply again. Measuring what I have and the length I’ve gotten out of them, I should be able to adapt the design and make it work out–but I may have to overdye a particular stash yarn in hopes of getting the shade I want to go with it, and if that doesn’t work I’ll let the much darker one I have be good enough.

But that kilogram? I do, I have it. It’s just in a lighter much brighter shade. The one I thought I was starting with, and the Willow was supposed to be the middle third at most of the afghan.

Somehow, the thought kept coming back to me again and again as I was trying to take all this in: And someday you’ll be glad of this.

Which means it will all work out, because of course it has to.

I took this photo this afternoon and then all I got done was my minimum two rows because I was halfway through the second one when I suddenly needed to go doublecheck and and and.

Didn’t Ace the test
Friday January 26th 2024, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Peaches on one side of the river, apricots on the other, but that makes it sound like I’ve done more than I have so far.

Meantime there’s a picture for this:

Richard is forever losing his combs. My last-resort option was a Tupperware party favor eons ago and he can’t take it because I can’t replace it. Dang it’s ugly (protectively so: for the life of me I cannot picture him ever wanting to put THAT in his pocket) but it’s great. Lives in my purse.

So I went looking and found the familiar old Ace. Those have always lasted forever, right?

Turns out that that 150 year old company sold out to the usual origins of cheap shoddy stuff overseas and their classic Hard Rubber dating to the Civil War is no more. He used it today for he thinks the third time ever and then showed me.

So I went looking tonight. Kent brand sounds good on (pixel-based) paper. I know, I know, we just sang that song, but we’ll see how it turns out.

A simple pocket comb is not something I ever thought I’d have to ask for recommendations on, but if you’ve got suggestions I am here for it because you know he’s going to lose that new one in no time.

Or maybe he’ll finally find that this one’s worth making sure he hangs onto it, I mean, I know I did.