Only the shadow knows
Monday May 17th 2010, 9:52 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

A new character showed up in the neighborhood with a stylish zorro streak on its other cheek and reverse eyeshadows– half circles of white right above its eyes, fluffing out to  make it look bug-eyed head-on. The wicked witch of the nest: I’m moulting! MOULTING!

And the other thing: I had the Red virus pass through about a third of my amaryllis patch last year, probably in part due to their lack of care while I was ill. One is supposed to throw away such bulbs quickly so that bugs and the wind don’t spread the disease.  I was in no shape, having had my belly unzipped twice, to go lifting any pots, nor did I particularly want to. Besides, there were memories in those flowers and I stubbornly wanted to give them every chance at hope.

Nearly all recovered and they show no signs of the virus now. From everything I’ve read, that wasn’t supposed to happen, I was risking losing the lot of them. But yet again, my amaryllises present a metaphor for what I went through as they look peachy-fine now anyway.

This is my prized Dancing Queen (yeah, I need to go clear away the old stuff). It may be a fairly small bud for this variety, but hey! I can’t wait to show it blooming.

And life continues on in its quiet, unspoken strength.

On beyond zebra!
Saturday May 15th 2010, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Life

A familiar scene: Costco, late Saturday afternoon.  In the fruit aisle. A dad trying not to buy the wrong box among the too-picked-over whatevers.  Distracted by two adorable little girls sitting seatbelted in his cart, ages about 2 1/2 and 4.

The girls were wearing identical dresses, their blonde curls brushed and carefully done up, cute as all get-out, and they were on the edge of being bored.  They were clearly well-loved kids.  They were being rambunctiously cheerful, in that way that experienced parents know will turn into tears instead in an instant on the part of the littler child fairly soon now if they kept that up at that rate.

The dad could see it coming, too.  He looked tired.  He tried to get them to calm down and hold a little more still, clearly wishing this shopping trip were over.  What they wanted, of course, was for him to stop and pay attention to them for a moment–many moments, hey, kids are kids–but his face was pleading that he had to buy these groceries and the store was closing in 15 and he just wanted to check out the apricots and actually look at them a moment first.  Okay?

Out came the handknitted fingerpuppets.  I apologized for butting into his space, basically, telling him I’d had four kids in six years; would they like these to play with?

His whole face changed in that instant.  He was thrilled.  I told him they were from a Peruvian women’s co-op.  He exclaimed, “That’s so cool!” turning them over and over in his hands, marveling at the details. Fingerpuppets!

I smiled and quickly got out of their way–last I saw, he was the one still playing with them in great delight, holding them out for his daughters to see.  But I came away thinking, that guy doesn’t know it, but his reaction just made it so I won’t forget to do that the next time.

Speaking of which, I need to go re-stock my purse.

Antics row
Friday May 14th 2010, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

This started out as trying to keep them away from my birdfeeder. But it became its own reward.

I sawed through a loaf of hard-as-a-rock whole wheat/multigrain/multiseed Costco bread this morning–so healthy I for one can’t eat it and one certainly couldn’t in time in the quantities they sell it in–and I put it out by the trees with some old almond butter spread on.  The almond butter, being past its expiry date but having been kept in the fridge, was still good but had more value as entertainment factor by now, I figured, since the peanut butter purists here weren’t eating it.

Then I watched to see what would happen.

One little black squirrel discovered it right away and was in total heaven. He ran up a tree to savor a big piece alone, and then from up there munching away, clearly decided he didn’t want that bossy big gray male who was always giving him what-for to know where the loot was before it could be stashed away.

That gray got a whiff, though.  He smelled it.  He left the porch he likes to dominate, the birdfeeder territory, and started looking for it.  Where was it?  He’d been so busy he’d missed out.  He actually licked the tree trunk where the black squirrel had first stopped to eat, then sniffed some more, frantically looking for any trace of almond.

Then he spotted the little guy just finishing his bite. YOU! Over there!  GIMME THAT! He went chasing, bounding from treetop to treetop, both of them doing daredevil leaps that had me holding my breath.  Run for it!  Over and over, around and around, back down to the ground now–and every time they got too close to where the rest of those pieces of bread were, the black one did the most masterful job of using the gray’s bossy instincts to divert him and led him along in his pell-mell chase away from the stash.  Every time the gray got too close.  Every time.  The black one would risk getting caught–almost–so that the stash wouldn’t be.  Neener neener, can’t catch me!

The race was to the young and finally the bigger and older gray gave up.  Never did get any. It was funny as all get-out to watch the little young one outfox him and then see it sneak back and squirrel away the rest.

I decided to take pity awhile later and put out some more pieces of that bread, but too lazy to mix more of the separated almond and oil back together.  I put the plain tidbits out again at the base of that same tree–and this time the big gray found it.

And that little turkey turned to me, back inside behind the window, with a look that could only be described as You have GOT to be kidding me!!! No *almond*?!!

And the cheeky little thing turned its nose up like a cat at dinnertime.

He did come back later and grabbed one when he thought I wasn’t looking.

You know which one’s getting seconds tomorrow. And you know what’s going to be on it. Let the Wild Rumpus Begin Again!

Little Boy Blue
Thursday May 13th 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The best thing I can think of to say is not mine to say at all; it belongs to the late Henry Beston and came to me courtesy of Evet, the moderator of the peregrine falcon group in San Jose.

There was a naming contest among the local schoolchildren for the falcon chicks, and today the winners were announced.

Yesterday there would have been three.

Today there were two.  The blue-banded male had started earlier this week to show signs of being ill and had stopped eating; he bedded down for the night last night with his siblings around him and his mother standing guard on the ledge above, his father nearby, and by morning had slipped quietly away.

A member of the San Francisco group offered the comfort of coming to see their webcam, where their four eyases are toddling and exploring and well.

Evet offered Henry Beston:

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.
Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in
civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge
and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.
We patronize them for their incompleteness,
for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.
And therein we err, and greatly err.
For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished
and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or
never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings;
they are other nations
caught with ourselves in the net of life and time,
fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Darwin display
Wednesday May 12th 2010, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Wildlife

I’ve been hoping that that evidence of a successful hunt yesterday morning (hit it, little Garfunkel: Lalalalaaala lalaaala. Feelin’ gravy) wasn’t the vivid-headed parakeet that had spent most of the previous two days here and that you could spot easily in the trees–but it has not been seen since.   Although the hawk or a cat are the more likely cause, squirrels do eat eggs and small or baby birds in the spring when they need protein and their caches of nuts are rotting or sprouting.

What did I tell that flighty little thing?  Never harass an animal that would eat you or you risk a coo d’etat.

Random other item: I don’t know if this link will still be valid by morning, but as the daughter of a modern art dealer, let me say, there are easier ways to diss the artists of the last 100 years or so and this was not one of them. One might say the UPS driver was making a special delivery of performance art to the Hirschhorn.  And it was a bust.

Wednesday May 12th 2010, 12:06 am
Filed under: Non-Knitting

If this goes through, it means our ISP finally got its act in gear. Cloud computing isn’t supposed to rain supreme quite like that.

Amaryllis whisperer
Monday May 10th 2010, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knit,Wildlife

Last year, my friend Nancy gave me an amaryllis plant that had been given to her as a bulb kit but that had never bloomed for her; she thought maybe I could get it to this year. It’s gorgeous, Nancy, thank you, and I’d give it back now if you hadn’t moved away.

The parakeet came back to feed many times today.  I wonder, if I were to put a bird cage with an open door out there, whether it would climb right in and make itself at home–but I’m perfectly happy watching it being perfectly happy.

And yet.  Not so much when it hit the window flying in a panic along with the finch flock–going not quite in the same direction as the others, being not quite one of them. It seemed okay afterwards, but it sure sharpened the caged life vs. longer life question about it for me. I tell you–personally, I’ve gone for longer and found it’s okay for it to be that way.

This picture is for Rachel: I’ve started in on the Malabrigo Silky she wound up for me.

Meantime, I got the perfect Mother’s Day present from my daughter-in-law and older son: “Outwitting Squirrels.” Okay, you already know it’s going to be good!  And then the author quotes the owners of bird stores in Cabin John and Potomac, Maryland–I bet his kids went to the same schools I did.  The guy had great fun writing this.

My favorite part? His tale of a woman in Massachusetts who found some old LPs in her attic. She strung them on a rope separated by knots with her birdfeeder below: no squirrel could climb that stair-eo.

Then she got to watch them trying to jump down onto the top LP to hang downwards towards the feeder.  Here came the first: it got spun off into the snow.  Hey…! Cool! Do it again!

She described it as a line at Disneyland, waiting their turn. No food but almost as good.

I mentioned it to Richard and his reaction was, “Like the buffalo.”

Wait, the what?

And then he reminded me.  After the musk ox got reintroduced to Alaska, the buffalo did.  “Where the deer and the antelope play” had nothing on these guys.

Okay, so if I ever seriously think about parakeet cages I’m going to have to provide it a lot of toys. They’re members of the parrot family and can talk; I wonder if I could teach it to knit.  Or at least recite my line-by-line lace instructions so I don’t lose my place.

Happy Mother’s Day! (I know, novel title there)
Sunday May 09th 2010, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Family

Just for fun, next time my kids ask me what kind of cake I might want, the answer is going to be this. Although, note that the last time I got fake-tortoiseshell cat’s-eye glasses I was in Mrs. Harvey’s third grade class at Seven Locks Elementary.

Speaking of which, best Mother’s Day article here; thank goodness for Christopher Gurr getting the whole ball rolling for the author. One teacher makes such a difference.  It sure got me thinking of some I wanted to thank, especially an English teacher at Churchill at her first job just out of college whose name I wish I could remember. I still go by her writing advice.

To one of the two best-ever teachers in my life, my mom and my dad–Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!
Saturday May 08th 2010, 10:29 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Dear somebody: your escaped pet (I can only assume that’s what it is) is doing fine, shooting the breezes, and has fallen in with a flock that thinks he’s a goldfinch on steroids. He let me open the door finally to try to get a better shot but that was it.   I was quite amused when he bossed the squirrel a bit.

All is well. Happy Mother’s Day!

(Ed. to add: the parakeet’s been back twice  now. I’m hoping it makes it a habit.)

John’s home!
Friday May 07th 2010, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

For Mother’s Day weekend. Best kind of present there could possibly be is, simply, presence.  Actually, he’s back out the door with his sister and their friends, but I’ll happily take every moment I can get and I’ll even share, too.

Meantime,  Jocelyn has a bird in her yard doing karaoke at all hours, defying her personal noise ordinance.  And boy does that bring back memories.

This is a corner of the back yard I grew up with in Maryland. One year, a woodpecker having too much fun with the wood siding discovered the second floor of the house to be high, safe, and warm, and pecked out a hole big enough to raise her family in. Insulation! Ooh, soft! Bonus points!

That nest was between the plasterboard and the outside wall and right at the head of my sister’s bed.  Till the babies fledged, there was not a thing anyone could do but wait for the day there weren’t little chirping hungry woodpeckers at the crack of dawn. (While hoping for no obnoxious cracks from teenage birds getting plaster’d.)

Mom and Dad eventually–they waited till they were really, really sure those birds were gone–got a tall ladder and plugged up that hole, hoping Momma Bird would get the message.  Woods, see? Tall trees, that way, go!

Clara-fying the dinner plans
Thursday May 06th 2010, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS,Wildlife

Two days ago, Clara flew into the nest and her children waited for her to come bring them dinner in their corner. She just stood there in the center. The message was clear: I don’t care if you do beakplants, you are old enough now to come over here and get it.

They grow and change so fast.  Today, she flew in with Pigeon Deplume’ and an eyas bounded over, grabbed it from her, and twirled away. Clara went right after it: gimme that! No! Yes! No! Yes! The two of them danced in circles three times, and on the fourth time ’round Clara succeeded in grabbing it back.

Now children. You will take turns being properly fed by me!

ME dooz it!


As one peregrine watcher put it a few days ago, (and I wish I could remember who so I could give them credit) “Mo-o-o-om, I ate all my pigeon; can I have some songbird for dessert?”

Their new dark feathers are growing in by the day.  Before you know it they’ll be ready for the Jerry Flew-us Fledge-a-thon.

(p.s. I took the qiviut scarf to Purlescence tonight. Universal swooning did happily occur. And today, for the first time, a spotted towhee showed up, identified after emailing with Sally, my expert.  It took a red-eye flight to get here.  Gorgeous!)

Leave it in the dusty
Wednesday May 05th 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Non-Knitting

Thank you, everybody, for the input. After looking at that scarf all blocked and done this morning, (5.5+ x 62″ out of those 24g!) it just felt like it is wonderful the way it is–and that I should knit and offer the person the alternative of a plain cream-colored cashmere blend, her choice; it’s pretty hard to go wrong that way. (So, back to the needles, I’m not finished there yet.)

Meantime, I have a friend whose emails my Thunderbird program, for reasons unknown, has been bouncing into the spam filter lately, about every other message.  We tried to pin it down: is it when it comes from her phone? From her computer? There seemed no particular correlation and it went on for days, with me dragging her messages up to my inbox as if I could show my computer, See?  *That’s* where it goes.  See?

All seemed mysteriously well this morning after all that, and I was thinking, Oh good!  Until I did a tentative check later just to make sure the new pattern was holding.

Nope. I fired her off a note:

“And we had fun fun fun till the T-bird took the addy away.”

May the 4th be with you!
Tuesday May 04th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knitting a Gift

I guessed, looking at my brown fluffball, that I had enough qiviut left for perhaps five more repeats.

I somehow got eleven out of it (with very few inches to spare).  That little ounce just went on and on and on.  Yay!

Meantime, the darkest red amaryllis, my favorite, opened its first blossom today. I’ll never see its second beyond the bud stage:  I took a deep breath, cut the stalk, and walked it at dusk down the street to a neighbor whose 90-year-old husband is ailing and who needed that.  I didn’t want to inflict the plant on her–not one more thing needing taking care of. Just a flower, smaller and daintier than amaryllises normally are due to last year’s necessary neglect. A survivor.

Which meant that a normal bud vase would do the job–it wouldn’t tower and topple over. It’s all good.

It was gorgeous and she could watch the process of the living blossom for herself as the second opens.

Meantime, after taking this photo, I rinsed the qiviut scarf and laid it out to dry.  No blocking wires for it. I didn’t even manipulate a yarnover up between stitches when I found I’d missed one–I frogged it gently back down to that point and did it over, wanting no tension against those fibers.  Go gentle gentle gentle on this stuff.

Michelle lace pattern from Wrapped in ComfortWhich brings me to my question tonight: my daughter does not care for the undyed musk ox color.  I have read that dyeing qiviut damages the fibers, and after all that hand combing of the animal in a specially designed, enclosed holding pen, the hand de-hairing, then all that hand-spinning, all that hand-knitting, all that was done on the part of three different women along its way to get this thing to come to be in its exquisitely glorious softness like nothing I have ever knitted before or probably ever will again, the last thing I want to do is take away from that softness.

I also happen to want the recipient to like it.  Color is so much of the experience of wearing something.  I’ve never met her. I can only guess what she’ll think of it.

I could, theoretically, simply dunk it in water with dye stirred in and it would take up the dye. However, without any simmering heat, it wouldn’t be dyefast–can you imagine her wearing, say, a white cashmere sweater and getting caught in the rain or even, for goodness sake, sneezing! and having dye run permanently down that sweater from her scarf?  Or on her winter coat?  So you see that if I dye it, I have to go through the whole process no matter what it might do to that qiviut.

Grayish brown it is, then.

Qiviut piece a chance
Monday May 03rd 2010, 10:12 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Amaryllis,Knit

A new amaryllis opened today, a double white, one of my dad’s bulbs from a year and a half ago. Gorgeous. Thank you, Dad!

I decided the best way to thank Rachel for the gift of her time and her wrists Saturday was to pay it forward: by knitting up and giving away the qiviut fiber she’d spun up and then had insisted on giving back to me. That had been on my good-intentions list for awhile.

Procrastination, however, had not cured me of being a little afraid of touching it. One must experiment, one must frog a little, when playing with a new yarn of a very definite length and no more.  One must see what kind of width vs length vs pattern I could get out of it.

Well, now I really owed her, so today I’m here to say that Rachel’s superfine handspinning of dryer-lint-fine qiviut is something that will stand up to being (oh so very gently) ripped out. It did fuzz a bit when I did. Just those first few rows–umm, wrong needle size. Didn’t like.  Try again. Um, wrong stitch count, won’t have enough.

I thought.

I expected to just whiz through that small ball in no time.  It has been thwarting my expectations in wonderful ways.  Out of 24 g, I really have 16 still left?  Really?  Unblocked, I’ve got 20.5″ already–I was expecting to get a cowl’s worth but instead it’s going to come out an actual scarf. (I didn’t knit it in the round out of sheer optimism.  Definitely paid off.)

Details: the lace pattern of the main body of the Michelle shawl from “Wrapped in Comfort,” plus an extra stitch each edge for a solid selvedge. I cast on 27 stitches on size 4.5mm.

I bought the fiber hand-dehaired from the owner of the animal.  This yarn is so exquisitely soft, the best qiviut can be, and oh, it is so warm. Can you just picture having your own Alaskan Musk Ox to comb the undercoat from?  Or even making socks out of this stuff to keep your feet really really warm on the ice? (But the idea of wearing holes in it! No thank you–I’ll knit my own holes in and call it lace.)

Because–Frankly, my dear, I don’t qiviut a darn.

Be prepared
Sunday May 02nd 2010, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

The question was asked in church today: how do you prepare for the unknowable, the un-prepare-for-able.

The usual answers were bandied around, like, this is how we’re ready for the next earthquake, etc etc.  I started to laugh, and the Sunday School teacher’s face lit up and she started to walk towards me holding out the mic in her hands–but I, wanting not to be boring, wanting not to state what seemed so obvious to me and that I knew they all knew anyway, really, just kind of waved her away with a “Don’t GO there!” The room, full of old friends and newer ones, broke out laughing.

I instantly regretted it, though.  Yes, actually, I did have something to say. I am, however, better at writing it than saying it out loud, so here you go:

The only way you can be ready for whatever life might throw at you is to already have had it throw some of it at you. Experience counts.

Experience is only a small part of it.

It’s who we are. Who, I should say, we choose to be.  Every day. In the little details. It adds up.  The little decisions, the little interactions with others, the little reactions to setbacks and how we deal with the aftermath (including of our own making).  A sense of humor is essential.  If our focus is on ourselves–and the really, really hard part about illness is not to get so wrapped up in dealing with it that we’re too focused too inward too often–then we’re not prepared for the next blow.

But if we take each thing life throws at us in terms of, okay, God, I know You love me, I know You say You won’t give me anything we can’t handle together but this part really does seem a bit much to me right now and do You suppose You could trust me just a little less with this testing thing right now? But after that initial reaction, if we go, okay. What am I supposed to learn from this.  Is there some way I can turn it around to be a blessing to someone else.

Then, I say, we stay open to the possibilities around us and no matter what our circumstances may be we are fully alive.

Then, I say, we are prepared.