Do NOT read this if you are afraid of flying
Friday December 14th 2007, 12:24 am
Filed under: Life

I warned you. Okay, here goes.

Tonight we flew home from Salt Lake, and I have all these things to say about an absolutely wonderful trip and wonderful people and how glad I am that we got to go. I’ll get to it. But I have to get this out of my system first.

We were flying over the San Francisco Bay on our way towards landing tonight. Looking out the window, I saw flashing lights in the dark–in the middle of the Bay? Red. White. That made no sense. I was trying to remember, from all the times we’ve driven those two bridges we were flying past, what those could possibly be–except, we didn’t go past them. They kept being simply there. Weird. They got a little closer and a little clearer, a ghost and a shadow at first and then clearly and plain to see right there, a SECOND JET flying directly alongside us and underneath–we were seconds from impact. If not before landing, then we were going to land right on top of them. We were going to the same runway at the same time. Just at the point that I thought emphatically, God, You have to do something because this isn’t going to work, our pilot rammed our plane straight up and out of the way. My stars. I don’t know where air traffic control was, but I can tell you emphatically that it was not at our airport looking in our direction, that’s for sure.

Watching the airport passing below us was both a comfort and a now-what-are-we-going-to-do. We circled out over the ocean–with the pilot, I am sure, going, I hope you’re watching me THIS time, dudes!, and me wishing I had paid the least bit of attention to the over-water emergency instructions–and we headed back over the mountains, then the Bay, and gradually in for a landing again. I’m sure my eyes weren’t the only ones on my side of the plane absolutely glued to the windows. The Bay was mercifully clear and black as night the way it was meant to be this time. I’m also sure the people on the other side of the aisle had utterly no idea. The woman sitting directly behind me and I exclaimed over that other plane as we were getting up out of our seats at the end.

Sometimes, when you fly, the captain will greet the disembarking passengers with a ‘have a nice day,’ or a, ‘thank you for flying our airline.’ That seems to happen a whole lot less often than it used to, in these high-security days, at least in my experience. But our captain opened his door as soon as the first moment to do so presented itself, sprang out, and grimly nodded at each person getting off, greeting them without a trace of a smile, though his pleasantries showed that he was trying to for our sakes.

I was thinking that he looked about to give someone a huge piece of his angry mind, and richly deserved–but it suddenly struck me that he seemed to need someone else to know what we’d all just gone through. How close it had been. Not to be a bunch of oblivious travellers. And he needed to see the actual people he’d just gone through this for, for us to have faces. He needed someone to know what he’d done for us, some way of relieving the pressure of his emotions by giving some degree of voice to them before he exploded to the guilty entities.

I wanted to say “Thank you for saving our lives”: I am one who believes in directly acknowledging the heart of the matter. It’s part of who I am. Still, that seemed a little more than I quite thought I could say…but…

With the amount and weight of our overhead carry-ons, we waited for a break in the passengers, and there was suddenly a long one, so I had a moment to speak without getting in anyone’s way. I said as I got up to the captain, “That first approach was a little freaky with that other plane there–thank you.”

He looked me in the eye, hesitated, and simply quietly wished me a happy holiday in response. I looked straight back at him, and answered, “Thank you for making it so we’ll have one!”

The moment he and I both needed. It had been acknowledged. He knew I knew. He had done his job well when others had not, and he had delivered us to the ground safely. He is a hero. I do not know his name, but I will never forget him. To the pilot of Jetblue Flight 291, THANK YOU.

Sardine elks
Tuesday December 11th 2007, 10:46 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

the sardines in the biggest tank at MontereyOkay, that’s not a post title you see every day, but it fits. We were visiting old friends last night who moved from our town to a beautiful home up against the mountainside in Utah four years ago; we were catching up, and on our way back out, there was a car stopped at a red light in a long stretch of empty road. Mark and Kelly can probably envision just where I’m talking about; there’s only the one light. Except, that other driver had pulled off into what would be, in California, the bike lane, and we wondered why–until we pulled up alongside him.

At the Monterey Aquarium, there’s a freestanding round tank in the walkthrough that is filled with brilliantly silver sardines. They flow along together in a circle, with a few mavericks hemming and hawing along the edges of the school, poking curiously in other directions, lagging behind, dashing to catch up, small children at play, it always seems to me. But if something disturbs the group–if a visitor taps on the window or peers in too close–there is a splash of randomness as some turn to the left, some to the right, and then somehow they all give a leap forward close together, a flip of the tails in perfect focus and a flash of silver as they swim in their new direction. After a calm-again moment, the ones who want to look around a bit more find their ways to the edges again.

Last night I was suddenly understanding why my husband had remarked recently that my camera was inadequate: there was no way it could capture that night picture I so much wished for. A few yards from where we were pulling up to a stop for that red light, there were seven or eight magnificent elk standing in the light snow, the peak of the mountain behind framing them. I have never seen elk in the wild before. It was breathtaking.

The light turned; as our car started up again, I mentally apologized to the fellow in that other car in that bike lane next to us, who had had, it had looked to me there in the dark, a large camera in his hands. At our sound and motion, the elks did exactly what those sardines do: they turned, some to the right, some to the left, and in so turning around they all somehow came closer together, and then they leaped forward as one. Not in a great hurry, and they slowed down as we pulled away, just, this is What They Do. Part of being an elk.

I came away with a sense of awe at the interconnectedness of the patterns, earth and sea. And of what the natural world offers to teach us of the strength of pulling together for each other.

For Anne
Monday December 10th 2007, 1:24 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Anne’s shawl in Wanda patternMy sister should have it by now. This is the Wanda’s Shawl pattern from my “Wrapped in Comfort” book, in Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk in an unusually bright and clear white. I wrote that it takes five balls, to make sure nobody runs out, but I used every last bit of four balls for this and had enough.Wanda’s shawl in Blue Sky Alpaca Silk

Got to my folks’ place last night, and woke up to a wide view of the mountain covered in snow, right there outside the window. The pine trees are holding up armfuls of soft white and it is truly gorgeous. I’m not sure yet how to get a photo in from here, so I’m posting a saved one of that shawl. Okay, time to go rejoin the folks. More later.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Saturday December 08th 2007, 11:20 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Life,LYS

I know, I know, you’ve heard the phrase before: “for those who’ve read my book…” you get to meet someone just a bit more.

I got an email last night from Nathania at Purlescence, saying someone had brought in a gift for me, would I like to come pick it up? So this afternoon John and I went over there, wondering what this was going to be about; walking in their door, I exclaimed to her, “Your amaryllis is gorgeous!” thinking, cool, they’re decorating the store with my favorite flowers! Or maybe someone had brought it in as a pre-baby present–Nathania’s only got a few weeks left before she and Kevin get to hold their Christmas baby.

Sue’s white amaryllis“That’s your gift. Do you know a Sue B?”

I was boulevers’e. Well YEAH!!! That’s the Sue whose story starts my book off, the waitress we love so much who can tell you what our preschooler used to order for dinner twenty years ago!

There was a thank you for her baby alpaca lace scarf in handwriting that Steve Jobs ought to take note of and preserve as a font. What she didn’t know, was, her gift made it so John got to come into the shop and have all these people he knew there congratulate him on his mission and wish him well, a chance for them all to say goodbye to each other for two years. The timing was absolutely perfect, and they totally made his day there as well as the flowers themselves.

So now I get to take Sue’s gift and share it with everybody here. (Sorry I took them away from you, Nathania, I’ll make it up to you, I promise…) These are gorgeous, Sue, and I love that you did this–thank you!keeping watch over their flora by night

Shoe enough
Saturday December 08th 2007, 12:04 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

See you at Heindselman’s Yarns in Provo next week! At 4:00 Wednesday, a few hours after I wave goodbye to John at the MTC. Have author’s pen (not to mention kid), will travel.

shoe enoughI was starting to pack for the trip, going over things and wondering: do I have any good shoes that actually have an enclosed heel? Been too long. I could just picture myself flicking Utah snow up into the backs of my legs as I walked with these. Went looking, and found a pair of uncomfortable pumps (they all are. It’s the nature of being 7 EE) that I think I’d bought for and then hadn’t worn since my grandmother’s funeral at 96…meaning, in ’96. Old.

A friend of mine came over yesterday, dashing through a storm and on up to the door, and as I opened the door, was going, “You can really tell it’s winter out there!”

I tried, I really tried–but it didn’t work, and I burst out laughing in spite of myself: “Shovelling 72″ in 17 days!” I responded. (Where we’d moved from in New Hampshire.)

img00044.JPG“Well, for *California* it’s winter out there!”

Ah yes. California winters. Where the–well, you go look at this.img00041.JPG Christmas lights in palm trees. You tell me if that’s nonpsychodegradeable or not.

Mom, don’t look
Friday December 07th 2007, 12:57 pm
Filed under: Knit

Note to self: if you want to keep the tips blocked into points, do not pick it up before it’s bone dry.   Let’s go dry it again, now, shall we? keep her in the dark on her gift

Needleless to say
Thursday December 06th 2007, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Knit

A stray thought (where did I put those Holz and Stein size 8s!)

Ya know? I used to have a mind like a steel trap. But I think now it’s a Havahart, and sometimes the doors get left open. ‘Sokay, just means rummaging around through the stash looking for whichever UFO it’s in, which you know means inspiration for the next cool project is going to strike as I go through that stuff.

Taking care of wool sweaters
Wednesday December 05th 2007, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Life

Blogging with pictures saved by the geek! Go Richard! (Yeah, and somebody taller than me had reset my camera to a setting I didn’t even know it had. Heh.)

Okay, for fiber artists, you can skim past this first little bit, you already know this stuff: there’s a great myth out there that you handwash wool or cashmere sweaters in cold water. Balderdash. There are three factors that contribute to inadvertent felting: water, temperature change, and agitation. Cold water can shrink up a sweater just as fast as heat can. Sweaters should be washed ever so gently in tepid water–and yet, you can do it in a washing machine, IF: you put them in after the water is already in, you don’t let it agitate, and you don’t let any water spray on them during the spin cycle. But you can use the machine for soaking and spinning out, making sure you take them out of there while it’s filling up again for the rinse cycle.

So. Being raised by a knitter, my kids have each gotten that lecture. Wash them in the sink or the machine, I don’t care, but remember, tepid water, etc etc.

I was cleaning out the laundry room, getting to the long-neglected bottoms of the big hampers that my four kids used for all those years. Things had been frequently cycled through the laundry towards the top, but, I found, were turning into sedimentary rock way below.

This is what I found down there. In the home of a fiber artist whose kids were taught about wool as if it were a religion. At least, it’s still great for dusting; the little scales in the sheep hairs clean like you wouldn’t believe.

The rest of you can go feel better now about your own sweaters that came out of the dryer a toddler size 2.

moth retirement condo community(Click on the picture for the full effect.)  Abercrombie and Fitch would be so proud.

An Ar-Aran it
Wednesday December 05th 2007, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

Dear Computer,

Imagine you’re knitting a sweater.  A really nice one, allover cabling, cashmere–oh heck, go all out, let’s say qiviut–with honeycomb, moss, all kinds of patterns.  Only, you look down and suddenly realize you’ve just dropped a stitch.   Except that where you dropped it has no connection to where your needles are, and the stitches that run downwards from it don’t either–they might be dropping diagonally, maybe upward, they might have gaps of solid stitches in between with no connection between the holes and no way to figure out how things ripped from here to there.  And when you try to pull it over your head to see how it’s going to look on, somebody sewed the neck shut.

Ah, you understand.  Now, can I please have my photos back?

Honest Abe
Tuesday December 04th 2007, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Rosemary at was quoting Abraham Lincoln, and asked if anyone else had any favorites quotes from him.

I do, but it wouldn’t make sense unless you also quoted Daniel H. Wells–who happens to be my grandmother’s grandfather. It’s one of those family stories that will endure forever.

They passed each other on the road, back in the early days of Illinois, two very tall men, Wells with flaming red hair. Lincoln challenged Wells with, “Stranger! Prepare to die. I promised myself if I ever met a man uglier than me, I would shoot him on sight!”

To which Wells responded, “Stranger! Go ahead and shoot. If I’m uglier than you, I don’t want to live!”

And both men headed off chuckling.

50 and counting
Monday December 03rd 2007, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Last night, our neighbors were celebrating the many accumulated, small, moment-by-moment good decisions and unselfishness that had led up to their marking fifty years of marriage. And we were invited to come share in their joy with their loved ones.

We ran into Penny and her husband there–or rather, Penny grabbed my arm as I walked by through the crowd, oblivious: I found myself suddenly exclaiming, “PENNY!”

The first time I ever attempted Barbara Walker’s Checkerboard Mesh Lace as a newbie–the pattern I used in the body of my Blue Jay shawl–I used it with cobweb 2/48 yarn and size 0 needles for a wisp of a scarf for her. We still had children in elementary school together back then.

When things were winding down, Richard headed towards the foyer and turned back to see if I was following; I was finishing up one last conversation first. And then when I came out:

“Are you all right?” he was asking a woman about the age of our moms, who was sitting on a chair near the front door. I found out later he had already asked her several times. There were other people around, but nobody else seemed to have quite taken notice of her state.

She was not seeing us. She was keeling over to the side in very slow motion, one arm splayed out, her hand tightening up. I hunched down so that I was looking up at her face, and repeated Richard’s question.

She began to come to herself again, and said something I couldn’t quite hear. There are times I rue my deafness more intensely than others, but she said again, faintly, “I feel ill.” Gradually, though, she regained herself as we quietly talked. It was just a touch of indigestion. Maybe it was a hot flash. Yes, she told me while Richard was sent off looking for a friend of hers, there had been pain down her left arm, but only for a moment. I told her, trying to gently counter her denial, that I had had that shortness of breath and classic pain radiating down the left arm–at 31. She was surprised. I was hoping to convey, being clearly no longer 31, that acknowledging what was going on and treating it was important.

She did not have any memory of Richard’s asking her if she was all right.

While he was gone, I mentioned my having lupus and Crohn’s–not to complain, just enough to let her know that he and I both understood and were there for her. When he came back, we asked her if we could call 911. She glanced out the front door, and I knew what she was thinking: the sirens, the paramedics, the loud and disruptive exclamation point to the lovely party and everybody going home with that as what they remembered of it, when maybe it was nothing, nothing at all, no reason for all that–and she shook her head no, while wondering out loud, though, whether she should be turning us down. I told her, “Better to call them and not need it than not call them and need it.” I almost had her talked into it. But no.

The wife of the bridal couple came out and saw us concerned over her and was concerned, too. She came over and spoke with her a moment, to convey, along with us, that it’s okay to be ill if you’re ill.

In the end, the woman allowed Richard to drive her home in her car while I followed behind in ours to get him afterwards. I thought we should sit with her awhile. Women know to come, to sit, to be there with others going through the transitions and upheavals in life. But he was the one who had gone with her, he being able to hear her subdued voice in a moving car when I knew I could not, and she was less open to him than I think she would have been to me. Nothing personal; more a gender thing. But she did at least let us take her home.

And I emailed our neighbors when we got back to our own home, to fill them in and because I knew they knew how to contact her, and that they would want to.

I came away from the whole thing feeling, the signs were subtle. Not sitting up straight, the not seeing, the shaking, and then her not remembering–which we wouldn’t have known had we not asked her questions. We probably should have called 911 on her anyway, but we gave her the autonomy and respect to let her make her own decision. I am hoping that once she was home alone, without a crowd of people around her who might be able to step in, she called for that medical help after all, or at least is getting checked out today.

But still. I woke up this morning with a profound sense of our having been in the right place at the right time. And that she was willing to listen to me, whether she immediately did what we hoped for or not, because I had cleared the path ahead by having already walked down part of it.

Women have always been there in the transitions of life. We all go sometime, but it’s the not knowing, it’s the fear of what lies between and ahead that leaves people feeling alone and afraid. Rachel Remen writes, “Fear is the friction in all changes.” By simply being with her, that woman, whoever she was, gained strength, emotional and perhaps physical. She had not been alone.

And she had given the gift to our mutual friends of keeping the evening a celebration of their lives together.

The outcome
Saturday December 01st 2007, 9:51 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Life

The CT scan suggested lymph node involvement. There was none. The surgery went very well and was deemed a complete success.

Marguerite will be okay. And my intense thanks to all who wrapped her in thoughts and prayers of healing, alongside mine.Marguerite’s Ann Arbor shawl in cashmere fingering weight

Booksigning, Provo, Utah
Saturday December 01st 2007, 11:55 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

I will be dropping my son off at the MTC and then going over to Heindselman’s, the LYS there in Provo, Utah, to sign copies of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls,” at 4 pm on Dec. 12th. Aren’t you glad to know you still have time to book your plane tickets?