At loose ends
Monday March 16th 2009, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

imgp7219I need to work in the ends on most of these scarves (or, as my mother calls them, yarn necklaces); it won’t take me long.  It’s been, finish knitting one, dive into the next, finish knitting the second, dive into the next, over and over–I was trying to get a lot done before I just couldn’t stand it, I had to finally go start that black cashmere shawl.

The black shawl has now commenced.

Which didn’t stop me from casting on Amanda‘s Huarache yarn today while waiting for the dentist. You can never have enough lace scarves on hand when you’re planning on going back and thanking your nurses; I’ve got a long way to go.

Meantime, a few years ago, I woke up one morning after a night of heavy storms to see a bright blue sky out the clerestory window.  Empty expanse.  It took me a moment to puzzle out what was missing: a tree had blown over, and the green branches I was used to waking up to were simply gone.  (The red berries are on the heavenly bamboo it had been growing next to.)

imgp7204We had someone cut its carcass up and haul it away for us, but for whatever reason, they left the overturned stump that was still within the long raised flower bed.  Huh.

Having grown up in a house in the woods, I knew that old wood is good for all kinds of wildlife. My folks had had a towering dead tulip poplar that the then-endangered pileated woodpeckers loved.  Bugs would eat the dead wood, and high off the ground, those huge woodpeckers would go after the bugs, spectacularly so: you could see chunks of wood going flying and the whole neighborhood could hear one hammering at work.  Go check out the tree trunk as well as the birds in that link.

imgp72081You’re not going to get that same effect from a stump on the ground, but you go with what you’ve got.

With our recent rains, these mushrooms on the stump have grown around and through the leaves of the heavenly bamboo, swirling their colors and dancing round and round for sheer joy at being alive.

Flowering pear
Sunday March 15th 2009, 7:18 pm
Filed under: My Garden

imgp71844My photos haven’t been embiggening since a recent WordPress update.    I’ll ask my blogmeister about it, but I want to give her a little time: she and her family bought a house last week.  Meantime, my flowering pear, the one we once thought we were losing, has burst into bloom in the last few days, throwing up its arms to the heavens in celebration of spring, and fuller and healthier than ever.


March-ing forth
Saturday March 14th 2009, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,My Garden

imgp7081Anybody know what the name of this is?  And what wildlife might particularly like it?  The bare branches in front of it are my Fuji apple tree, ready for a little springtime too.

new and, behind it, the old

Meantime, here’s an amaryllis’s equivalent of gray hair, the color of the flowers in the older stalk (two weeks old!) a lighter pink at the back, and in the second stalk, newly opened, bursting out in color.  Same plant.

Here, this shows the contrast a little better.imgp7169

Blown in the wind
Friday March 13th 2009, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends

oopsNow that you have that earworm singing away…

I had an amaryllis outside with a bud that was just starting to open when the stalk got blown over.  I expected it to recover and come back upright, but no; its reaction was, fine with it; bloom where you are face-planted.

But since the flowers were hiding on the far side of the picnic table where nobody could see it from inside the house, I cut it and brought it in where it could brighten up the room and not just keep to itself.upright again

Meantime, today, Nancy, instigator extraordinaire who talked me into taking handspinning and dyeing classes years ago, stopped by today with flowers and chocolate.  She’s also the one who knit the circle shawl for me to give away to whomever that turned out perfect for one of my doctors, who loved it.

Nancy's flowers

Scene 1, take three
Thursday March 12th 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Life

imgp7136Two trailers before we get to the main show: first, a thank you to Judy Sumner for the gorgeous yarn that had me catching my breath and going ooh, feel this! to Mom and Richard.  It’s 13.5 oz  (!) of silk/merino from Ellen’s Halfpint Farm in Evening Shadows, a colorway I particularly like.  Judy, I will try to knit this into something worthy of such generosity.  Or several somethings, at that yardage.

And a shoutout to  boy, could they teach my health insurance company something about customer satisfaction.   My supplies came. Already!

Now, on to the blog–

I had to laugh at Momo Fali’s comment, because I once did just a quick run to Costco for a couple of gallons of milk, it being all of a mile away, and the clerk stopped and stared at me: he had to give me change for my five.  “How did you DO that?!”

You build up a certain immunity.

Another Costco moment: I once went with my younger daughter pushing me in a wheelchair.  Never again on a Saturday; you’re lower down than the tops of the carts and people just don’t see you.   Bumper carts in the funhouse.  But the priceless moment was when Michelle parked me for a moment to run go look at something just as a young dad did likewise in front of us, and I suddenly found myself looking right up at a two-year-old boy carefully strapped in.

Who had the most befoozled look on his face as he stared down at me, trying to take it in: there’s a GROWNUP.  In a STROLLER.  Being pushed by a KID!!!

Utterly nonpsychodegradeable. Poor kid. I smiled and waved hi and he had no idea how he was supposed to react, it was just beyond him.

Scene three:  Costco again.  On a day when it was raining, when I still needed a chair at the time but no way did anyone in the family want to take the time standing in the heavy downpour to get it out of the car; Richard let the kids and me out in front of the entry to go use the store’s scooter instead, hoping there would be one not being used. There was.

Well, now, this was kind of cool: it had a horn (although calling it a horn is kind of like a chihuahua calling itself a Great Dane) that sounded like the RoadRunner for when people are barreling down on you. Meep meep!

The problem came, though, when we were at the far end of the store. The scooter died.  Totally. The gauge said the battery was fully charged, but it was as stubborn as an Iditarod dog in the hot Arizona summer: ain’t goin’ nowhere, dude.  After a few moments of trying, Richard gave up and went to go ask someone.

The manager came over, checked it out, and figured out the problem: “It’s thrown the deadman switch. It doesn’t think anybody’s there. You don’t weigh enough. Try putting your purse in your lap and a 25-lb bag of rice or something next to you on the seat.”

Not that I wanted any rice… We made do. And the thing roared back to life.

One foot in front of the other
Wednesday March 11th 2009, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I tried to run after our longtime mailman Monday afternoon and was surprised to find my legs not quite moving as fast as I was telling them to–I nearly splatted forward on my face.  Oh.  So I called after the guy as he was walking away, he stopped, put my bill payment in his pack with a smile, sure, lady, no problem.

I went back inside marveling at the disconnect between brain and attempted movement–and marveling too at the fact that I simply hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t doing that anymore when I walk.  For a month, I’d had to be mindful of my steps to make sure my legs kept up the pace or my expectations slowed down to match them.  How soon we forget, the instant things seem to be normal again.

Today.  Out of milk and orange juice, we decided we needed a quick trip to the nearby Costco.

To Mom and Richard’s surprise, I offered to tag along. And I went.

The Trader Joe’s store where I found myself abruptly giving out last week, where Sam made me go sit down fast, is a small store.  Costco, on the other hand, is huge.  We walked aisle after aisle–I hadn’t been able to go in nearly four months.  It was like a novelty.  An adventure.  Plus I was having to look at the foods on display with new eyes: oh, that’s good stuff, oh wait, I can’t eat that.  That? No. Not that. That. Another week left on the post-surgical modified diet; having had one blockage and NG tube, I’m being real careful to avoid a repeat.

I did it.  I walked Costco.  I did it!

Next time, by golly, I might even try to run down one back aisle when nobody’s looking.

John Miles
Tuesday March 10th 2009, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends

Granted, John and I have been friends for 22 years.  But still!

Six years ago, I called my audiologist after getting out of the hospital with what had been, up till then, my worst Crohn’s flare.  I was having  a hard time hearing and was wondering about my hearing aids .  John’s reaction, not knowing I’d been ill, was to ask me if I’d lost weight recently; well, yes, thirteen pounds.

He told me, That’s it, then; you lost weight in your ear canals and your earmolds no longer fit properly. They’re not transmitting the sound well enough.

“I lost weight in my EAR CANALS?!  How useless is THAT!”

He laughed.

So here I am.  I lost twenty-five pounds since Christmas, have managed to get eight back in the last month by working hard at it, and I’d been thinking I was just going to have to wait and simply be deafer till I get back to normal.  New earmolds are a SeaSilk two-skeined shawl each, and I knew this was temporary–there’s no chance I’m going to stay this thin.

My deductibles and co-pays are a staggering $8800, besides various hospital incidentals and not-covereds, etc etc.  (I know.  At least I have insurance. I have no right to complain.)  But I felt I just couldn’t afford to go get new earmolds on top of that.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone with my insurance company and with vendors, trying to straighten out how to get ostomy supplies, which are by prescription only and not something you can just go buy off the shelf; but I got the impression the company doesn’t seem to be popular with a lot of vendors.  (Yeah, I could tell them a story or two myself…  See why I wrote about forgiveness?)

I ‘ve been finding I have to walk with the speakerphone on over to my mom so that she can help me figure out what the person at the other end is saying, and ohplease don’t let them call me back while she’s out on a walk. I kept thinking, what on earth will I do after she flies home?

I got frustrated enough after the last call to phone John’s office. Uncle! I had to get at least one new earmold, even if it’s only for a short term and I never make use of it again. I had to be more functional than this.

John and his office knew what I’d been going through this time and have worried and done their fair share of praying.  And John knew why I’d put off coming in.

He told me he was making me new earmolds, and that that was his gift towards my getting better.

What do you do with a friend who makes your eyes leak like that.  When could I come in?

How about right now?

And so Mom and I went off to Los Gatos.  One ear had too much wax for an impression, the other was clear, so John and I both got our way; one earmold, at least for now, coming up.

Oh, and those ostomy supplies? The vendor promises they’ll be here by Friday.

Look both ways and cross that street
Sunday March 08th 2009, 5:57 pm
Filed under: Life

Dancing Queen for joyThe first speaker at church today spoke of the love of God, how it took her awhile to find that He could so easily forgive the paths she’d taken in her teens–that He was just waiting for her to find that in His love, she could forgive herself and finally let go of any power those mistakes had had over her. She could move forward now.

The second spoke of forgiving others who had given offense. Then, tears springing to his eyes, he said he once felt he had offended God by his actions and had prayed for forgiveness; then he tried to describe the response he felt so strongly and for which he would forever be grateful, but for which there are no human words:  God loved him.

And I knew, listening to him, remembering, that an experience like that comes with the knowledge that we are required to go forth from there and love others absolutely, unconditionally, and with all our hearts as well.

But we are all still human. And it’s a challenge.

the fruit starts with the flowerForgiveness with an open heart is a willingness to let go of the parts of the past that you didn’t want to have had happen, in order to live the future you would give anything to be able to have.

Boxes on the doorstep
Saturday March 07th 2009, 5:25 pm
Filed under: Friends

Grace's shawl

Grace surprised me with a box in the mail today: a shawl she had designed based on my patterns and that she’d named after me.   Wow. Thank you, Grace! I so totally did not expect that!

Joanne Seiff and I grew up on opposite sides of the Potomac River, fellow Washingtonians and email friends.  She has been working on a book, “Fiber Gathering,” a celebration of the various American fiber festivals, and a copy arrived yesterday.

from Joanne Seiff's "Fiber Gathering"I love that Joanne’s husband traveled with her and snapped the photos for the book; reading through and admiring the work of both of them is like watching them being happy together.  It makes me want to pull out my drum carder and spinning wheel and get back to work with my soft-as-cashmere kid mohair fleece in the closet.  (Let’s give the surgery recovery a little more time first before I use that carder, though.  And I’m not quite so sure about treadling the wheel either, yet.  But I want to!)

There is a Fishtail vest that was designed by Terri Shea, who, years ago, sent me a copy of the children’s book, “Love You Forever,” having no idea that I’d wished for a copy but hadn’t bought one because my kids were really too old for it; but I used to sing the little poem in it to my friend Lisa’s baby, Tara, whom I designed my Redwood Burl shawl for–Lisa and the by-now-teenaged Tara both, whose story I told in my own book.

Lisa’s family came from Michigan to Sam’s wedding reception five years ago, and I asked Tara if she remembered that song at all; she didn’t, which was no surprise, but someday I hope to sing it to her children.  And to my own children’s children.

Terry’s Fishtail is held together in Jeff’s photo by a shawl pin designed by–I don’t see it in the text, but I recognized it instantly–my friend Rosemary Hill.  (Wait–“Resources,” pg 160. There it is.) And there were other patterns designed by people I recognized from the Knitlist and whom I’d had a conversation or three with over the years.  Going through this book was like reconnecting with old friends.

Then there’s a picture at Estes Park, Colorado, at a spot I recognize: it’s next to where I snapped probably my own best-ever photograph.  A friend’s dad had lifted his hand up to a very large bird soaring near us, and it had come and landed at the edge of his hand. There was a backdrop of a single white cloud framing the bird as I shot the picture from below.  I will forever think of Estes Park with that breathtaking moment.

I can just imagine all the memories Joanne and Jeff created together as their book came to be.

still knittingMeantime, with all this gifting everybody’s doing, hey, honest, I really do knit too! Blocking, not so much, though, lately; it’s that stages-at-a-time thing again.

Baby, I’m yours
Friday March 06th 2009, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Family

I got an email from LynnM saying that clearly my Sam was a sensitive and thoughtful child.  And she’s right; Sam always has been. Always.

She was five and a half months old, just barely starting to master where her limbs moved to, on the day of this memory.

We had recently moved, and as a new mom in a new place in a new part of the country, I was feeling isolated and lonely. I was sitting on the edge of the bed one particularly hard day, my baby in my lap, looking elsewhere, when suddenly I…What was that?… I looked down.

penguins and a turtle with Sonya's sock-keychainAnd there was Sam: she’d managed to take her pacifier out of her mouth and was trying repeatedly to put it into mine.  Out of the mouths of babes.

And that’s the other thing about her: she had a goal and she was sticking to it.  She’s definitely still that way.

I swooped her up in delight and a hug and great pride.

Changing of the guard (Hi, Mom!)
Thursday March 05th 2009, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,LYS

From Debbie and MichelleSam flew home last night; Mom flew back in this morning.  My family’s taking good care of me for a little while longer.

Mom and I went to Purlescence’s Knit Night tonight, where I cast on my new Casbah yarn, started to knit, looked at it funny a moment, counted about forty-leven times, started another row, stopped, took it back off the needle, frogged, chatted, cast on, and started to knit again–but mostly we just chatted. (Hence the frogging.)  People time!  And we all flirted shamelessly with Meg’s cute baby.  When someone I didn’t know complimented my shawl and asked if I’d made it, I proudly told her, no, Mary did.

On our way out the door, Nathania told me, Hang on a second–and handed me this  lovely get-well card card from Michelle in Ohio and this cool little tote by Debbie R that would have been perfect tonight for my small project and many a doctor’s waiting room.

Good to be out and about, and spoiled on top of that!  Watch it you guys, I’ll be insufferable before you know it.

To bear fruit
Wednesday March 04th 2009, 6:59 pm
Filed under: LYS,My Garden

Meyer lemon treeThank you everybody for the support over yesterday’s post.

Meantime, Purlescence sent out an email today: three boxes of Casbah yarn had just arrived from Handmaiden.  A flurry of emails came in almost immediately via their Yahoo group: save me some in Forest! Don’t sell it all before my meetings are over! I wish I could get there! And the like.

Sam and I went over there, and then I added to the messages my, Hey, Jasmin, I left you a little; she responded that she got some already, her preciousssssss…

Casbah from Handmaiden

Actually, I just bought one skein.  Kevin wound it up for me as I explained to him that if I bought two, I’d have to save it for a shawl, but just one, it would get knitted up quickly into a scarf without fretting over too much planning. He laughed.  But you see, it’s also that I was being nice and not depleting the stock in the first two hours.

baby plum treeMeantime, with Sam leaving tonight, I had to get a picture to show off the baby plum tree that she thought of and instigated from afar and got her brother and sister to plant for me for Mother’s Day last year.  It’s just starting to bloom, and look at all those flowers already!  And the snails didn’t eat the blossoms, like they like to do on my Fuji apple; I’m assuming that’s because I put a copper wire on the ground loosely around the trunk last summer.

The Fuji’s still dormant for just a little longer and I think I’d better go get me more copper wire.

(Oh, and by the way, in case anybody’s curious, this is the only day of the year that is a command.)

The lucky ones live and learn
Tuesday March 03rd 2009, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Life

We got a phone call tonight: my husband’s cousin.  A car accident.   Gone.

Richard then reminisced over dinner about someone he’d known in his high school back in the day, a kid who at 15 drank, stole his parents’ car, and then crashed it while fleeing the cops.  Not a smart move.

The judge could have taken away his possibility of getting a license till he hit 21, as is often done, but the judge wanted to change that boy’s behavior and make a difference to him.  So instead, he sentenced the kid to volunteering in his local ER.  During the midnight shift.  Where he got to see all the results of all the people making the same kind of mistake he’d made, or their victims, in all the reality of what that meant.

The kid never drank again.

The long and winding road
Monday March 02nd 2009, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit,My Garden

narcissus trying not to trip over its feetAnybody else do this? I find I tend to go through bursts of playing with my dye pot, where creating colors in my wool or baby alpaca is what I find myself focused on day after day. Or winding up balls of yarn for the sheer sake of winding and the sense of anticipation it brings–and that it lets me be engaged with a particular texture or shade or colorway for just a short time and then lets me go right on to the next.  Or times when, enough of all that, I need to sit down and knit and see something actually materializing and getting done!  But each phase tends to go in spurts.laughing amaryllis

It bugged me lately that I hadn’t been able to ball up yarn hanks all these months.  That I couldn’t expand my project possibilities into my whole stash; I was limited to the ready-to-knits.

Last week, I found the black cashmere (yay!) and got the first hank of it ready to go; I did it, but I had to take a good long rest afterwards.  This evening, I finished winding Amanda‘s Huarache yarn she gave me in Vermont lastamaryllis November, and I’m wondering which yarn to wind next after I finish typing this.  My arms and standing-up time are getting better at this.

But the groove in the record that my diamond needle keeps jumping back to?  (That’s an anachronism, kids, go ask your folks. Heh.)  Taking pictures of everything blooming, celebrating spring giving birth to life.

Rip van Wrinkle
Sunday March 01st 2009, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life

amaryllisesToday I made it through all three hours of church meetings for the first time in three months.  (And then went home and slept three hours solid.)  Two weeks ago I’d gotten through the first meeting, last week not at all.

Today I got to see: that babe in arms was now walking, in that staggering “look at me!” way they do, with arms at stiff right angles as she toddled in glee at being able to. I laughed.  I could relate.

Those two newborns were now three months old and surprisingly bigger.  That baby over there in his daddy’s arms was now old enough to be smiling back at me and laughing at my peek-a-booing.

The woman who’d told me in great excitement that she was expecting her first, and I’d quietly thought, You are?  Where?, was now clearly quite pregnant.  Life continues onward.

Quite a few people made a big deal over my being back.

And I thought, as I did during Stitches and all the joy and all the greetings there, how, throughout January and the first part of February, I kept trying to remind myself that the day would come when I would be so glad to be alive.  It was something to try to convince myself of; I sure didn’t feel that way yet. But there was this sense of obligation to my family and to all the people praying their hearts out for me to keep on slogging through it all whatever may come, and to keep a sense of cheerfulness as much as possible.

amaryllis in happy anticipationThe hardest thing I did physically and mentally during that time was to pull myself together enough to keep writing on my blog. To sound coherent. To type, at whatever angle I had to. To keep on being part of the great big world out there.  Grateful for each comment as I read them while utterly unable to muster the energy for giving back by responding.

It has been a weekend of much love and great joy.  I feel immersed in life again.  I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  I owe much.  Thank you all for helping see me through.

Wind up the yarn into balls in celebration and forward knit!