Tuesday June 15th 2010, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I saw our resident Cooper’s hawk yesterday; it was chasing something towards these flowers.

Several of us were watching the SCPBRG screen together tonight, when, for the first time in awhile, Clara showed up to take her sentry position on the ledge! I’d been missing that the last couple weeks.

I said to the others, She used to hop down from there in the night, once, and go into the nestbox. She would pace in there as if missing their babyhoods. (I didn’t add, but was thinking, and she would also often snuggle down in the far left corner for just a moment.)

Right after I said that, she did exactly those things. For no more than a minute.  Then she flew lightly back up to her sentry position. (Let’s see, the kids have moved out, let’s measure that opening for curtains and put in new furniture, put the old up for a swap on Gravelry…)

But again, only for a moment. Hmm. She walked to the edge of the ledge, looked over, checked on her two fledglings on the louver down there, then walked back to her usual spot, which is, I think, just out of their sight–to avoid, I’ve been told, peregrine cries of Hey, Mom, we want a midnight snack!

They seemed to be doing okay more and more on their own and she had been keeping her distance of late. But for whatever reason, tonight, either they or she just needed that extra sense of presence: Mom’s here.  All’s well.

It was a woolly, mammoth project
Monday June 14th 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Spinning

I once bought a Rambouillet fleece from a woman in New Mexico who was trying to refine the breed to create the finest fleeces, better than the merino it was derived from. She had each one micron-count lab-tested and then she priced according to those results.

I decided if I were going to spring for one, I was going to get the best I could.

This is before I had a drum carder. I quickly realized my hand cards and my wrists and that wool were not a good match and sent it off to a mill to be commercially washed and machine-carded into roving for the fast-food version of handspinning: just sit at my wheel and go.

I even got sent a picture of the sheep! With its poetic name, Number 1243 or some such.

The mill said it did fine fleeces like merino. What it didn’t tell me when I made inquiries is that they hadn’t quite yet bought fur carders, which is what most superfine wools require. (They did a year later.)

They botched it. My beautiful, first-class fleece came back full of neps, the little rolled-up pills that are the nemesis of good sweaters everywhere–before the wool had even been made into yarn yet. Picking them out was a task that would never have ended.

I actually made a pair of soft slipper socks out of them, even so.  I started a second and much larger project, but the could-have-beens and the visual interruptions of those pills got to me and I eventually abandoned it. From there, it sat for awhile till I donated most of the roving to the Boy Scout troop for stuffing in their shoes for comfortable feet on long hikes.

So yes, it’s true: loose neps sink WIPs.

Dancing for joy
Sunday June 13th 2010, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Wildlife

My Dancing Queen amaryllis is blooming! You know, the bulb I was supposed to toss because it had a red virus it wasn’t supposed to recover from, much less ever bloom again. It’s only two flowers this year instead of four or five on each of multiple stalks.

I think I can live with that.

Meantime, on the peregrine scene, Kekoa left dinner with his sister and mother on a tower at San Jose State University early in order to claim his window ledge first. Maya ate awhile longer, and when she came in, flew to a louver several floors below him. Hmph!  *I* can have my *own* window, so there! With the camera looking straight down from above, the tip of her tail showed.

But then her beak, and then all the sudden her wings and tail were spread wide and she was flying out of there. She circled just out of view, clearly, because she almost immediately reappeared next to her brother.

She gave him a push from behind. Just, you know, to see. Window? Corner?

NO. MINE. I got here first.

Oh okay, be that way, and she settled down for the night next to him. But notice, no feather pulling, no beaking, no running a talon through his tail.

If only my kids had learned to behave that much that fast!

Seen on the 18th floor
Saturday June 12th 2010, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Part the first, observed and written to the peregrine forum this afternoon:

So Kekoa's been dozing on the louver, minding his own business in the
shade for over an hour, when Maya suddenly flies in right next to him.
She bumps into him. He goes HEY! and steps away a step. She wants
attention. She steps on the tip of his wing and combs it with her foot.


He scuttles a little further away from her, and she starts grooming

Right, Sis. You preen your own feathers, y'hear?

And then Kekoa starts grooming too, each being the mirror for the other.

Later on tonight, they were back on the louver after (I assume) dinner off somewhere; Kekoa got there first and hopped up onto the ledge just above Maya when she came in. He likes that window seat; let his sister have the emergency exit row.

They were together a goodly while with me thinking how sweet it was that those two young fledglings liked to be side-by-side still–when all the sudden they started acting like siblings anywhere. Teasing. Protesting.

Hey! Kekoa has the good seat! I want it!

Maya reached slightly up and started pulling on his wing.

Hey! Mom said we should beak kind to each other!

So I’m kind-of-beaking you here, you got a problem with that?

Little Kekoa gathered his wings together and flipped his tail a bit out of her way. She moved over and leaned, twisting her head in from underneath it as if she could get away with it that way, and ran her beak again down the tip of his wing, grabbing a goodly chunk of feather in the process: Hey, bro! Here, you spilled some anchovies off that pizza, let me help you clean it up.

Get OFF! He danced away, turning around in his spot, still carefully keeping that upper corner.

This went on four times, and in between, Maya was reaching under the ledge, grabbing something unseen and twisting, as if she could undo a screw and turn the whole scene into a Wile E. Coyote moment.

Kekoa simply tucked his tail and his wings out of her way and got them again out of her reach. But he stayed in that corner. That was his spot and he wasn’t going to budge.

Small and nimble beats big and slow any day. So there, Sis.

Notice that, two hours later, they are still in the same places. There’s the whole rest of the window ledge if Maya wants up, but she has stayed standing looking at him. Standing sentry in the night like her mother did.

And he in return watches over her, over his shoulder.

No other bird could possibly do for company at this stage in their lives.

St Michael Trio
Friday June 11th 2010, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Richard and I went to a concert to hear the resident musicians at Menlo College performing tonight:  everything from Brahms to Gershwin’s jazzy notes to a new artist in New York whose work our friend Russ had commissioned but had had to download the music, still written in longhand, for the performance. It was that new.  I didn’t hear the composer’s name nor Russ’s description very well, but I tell you: New York City put into music, beautiful music, is how the piece sounded to me. The subway, the rush of commuters, the quiet of the museums, he’d captured it exquisitely and I could spend hours listening just to that and whatever else the man might write.  (Someone can stop me right here and tell me it was all about crop circles in cornfields or something, whatever, I  loved it.)

That was from the fellow who, if you will, wrote the pattern that knitted all the sounds together.

The men who were working with their hands using instruments invented centuries ago to create a thing new and unique each time they followed those given patterns were the musicians (you get to hear them here) that are the Saint Michael Trio.  They were selling CDs to help fund music festivals and commissions such as the one we got to hear.

It strikes how what they do echoes what we knitters do. From our ever-improving skills and our hands and our hearts to reaching outward.

And then they topped off the evening with a soothing-then-rocking-out “Stairway to Heaven” that was the best. version. EVER !!!

Purlescence tonight
Thursday June 10th 2010, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Life,LYS

So it was knitting group night at Purlescence, and some people I hadn’t seen in awhile were there along with the regulars.  Having talked on end there about the antics of the falcons over at City Hall, I brought Hilary’s falcon carefully tucked away in a box for safety–not even thinking till just now as I write this that wow, just like the elevator rides for the misfledged fledglings!

A woman walked in wearing a “Not that kind of doctor” t-shirt; another stood up and they threw their arms around each other.  Something was mentioned about not having had a good conversation since 1994; they were old buddies.

I wasn’t following their conversation, not wanting to be in the way, but the one I didn’t know was working on the most incredible beaded glove in a deep sapphire blue with beads, both sparkly and plainer, and just the slightest brush of lighter shades mixed into the blue. The Milky Way?  There was fine embroidery and I thought, the Big Dipper!

Turns out I got that one right. She was an astrophysicist PhD and she was knitting the galaxies into her gloves.  Wow.  I wanted to stare at the one in her hands and study its emerging skies.  For me, the daughter of a contemporary art dealer, if I were doing a starry starry night, it would look like a Vincent Van Gogh–backgrounds are funny things.

She was visiting from Boston, if I heard right; as their conversation went on, there was a fellow, one of the regulars, who was spinning away at his wheel next to the pair.  He’s been quietly working away at that green wool roving for a goodly number of weeks.

And at some point that I missed but got told about afterwards, he interjected, Oh, you must know my mother!

His mother, it turns out, had been the woman’s thesis advisor.

Look at all those stars. Ours IS a small world!

Keeping the Wolf at bay
Wednesday June 09th 2010, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Friends

First, a photo to show the difference between needlefelting, like Hilary‘s falcon, and felting; Diana made me the colorful turtle.

Maybe someday I’ll post about the man from Mexico who was working on the grounds while the place was being torn down by half at a time and rebuilt.

But anyway. Today was a lupus group meeting at the local community hospital, and I chuckled as I pulled into the exact same parking spot near the door that I have somehow gotten every single time since the new seismically-correct hospital opened.

We meet in a conference room next to the cafeteria in the basement and this time the group decided, hey, let’s have a salad potluck and do lunch together.

There was a new person there, her first time.  And that is the main reason I go to these: to show the newer/younger patients that you can have this disease a long time and life still goes on with it and it’s okay: no matter what it may throw at you, you are still you and the rest is just noise.

One of the things she wanted to know was how to know what to expect. The short answer is, you can’t. The long answer is, statistically, how you’re doing at five years out is how you’ll very likely be 20 years out.  No organ involvement? Wonderful! She was particularly interested in the cardiac statistics, and someone who is a nurse answered but I didn’t hear what she said, so I didn’t say anything, not wanting to possibly repeat her.

But the percentage of lupus patients who show cardiac disease at autopsy is in the high-90’s percentile. 50% of those will never have known it.  (And of course, then there are the occasional patients like the unnamed one a Stanford cardiologist was just shaking his head over to me: he’d had to do a quintuple bypass on her. At age 21.)

There was also one older member there with her first set of hearing aids, and she seemed  discouraged with them at two weeks out. I told her it takes about three months for the brain to adjust to sounds it’s not used to hearing, that you get better over time at picking a voice out of background noise, that the pain at the unaccustomed volume–it’s called recruitment–does go away, but no, it’s not perfect and it’s not instantaneous.  And that the adjustment time is longer if you’re rarely actually around much in the way of sound.

I asked her if hers had directional mics?  She thought so, but didn’t know what that really meant.

It means the aids are picking up the person you’re facing and likely leaving out the people to the side. I explained about the consonants being higher pitched than vowels, making speech sound mumbly due to missing pieces.

I came away feeling like I had actually been able to be helpful, which is always a good thing.

But what struck me was how much sitting at two tables pushed together, everyone facing each other, a bit of food in hand, had made the atmosphere less formal. Had made people more comfortable speaking up about their personal lives, not just the lupus aspects of them. Had made the conversation a back-and-forth, give-and-take rather than the one turn for you, one turn for you, one for you, version of speaking that goes on at the regular meetings, had made it more a meeting of friends than merely patients, and I very much enjoyed today’s.

I gave the newcomer my contact info and blog addy.  I wanted to make it clear: we’re all in this life thing together.

Isn’t this just so cool!
Tuesday June 08th 2010, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Non-Knitting

Here are Glenn Nevill’s photographs, the whole scene starting at picture two taking place in one second’s time, of lunch delivery of the San Francisco falcons. Eat and run!

Meantime, one of my fellow falcon enthusiasts came over today.  I was hoping the Cooper’s hawk would make an appearance for her, but no such luck, although she did enjoy the show the birdfeeder put on.

Hilary’s the one I was looking for Edgar for.  I never did find him, but I did find some good roving to share.  She’s into needlefelting–and her work is so exquisite I wanted to run show it to my parents, especially my dad the art dealer, and exclaim, Isn’t this just so cool!

Because she came with a surprise.

She had had to trim the body down a bit, she told me, because the feet weren’t supporting it.  (It looks perfect to me!)  She’d had the proportions just so the first time.

I’ve done a very little bit of felting, but I’ve never tried anything remotely like this. You’d have to be able to visualize what you want and then know just how to make it come out like that, not to mention doing all that actual work.  It takes the eye of an artist.  My pictures didn’t quite capture it, but she got it just so right down to the toenails.

I am reminded of Sandra Boynton’s lesson on how to mold chocolate bunnies: “Take one block of chocolate, 4x4x7 feet.  Chip away all pieces that do not contribute to an overall impression of rabbitittity.” Uh, yeah.

I am just totally in awe, and totally in love with my very own little falcon perched by my left hand as I type this.  Wow. Cool. Thank you. I had it perched on my knitting books while she was here, but I think I’m going to keep it on the arm of the couch, watching me knit at my own perch.

She told me it’s a tiercel, ie, a male, tiercel meaning “third” and males being a third smaller than females.  That tummy tuck and all that.

So.  He had a hard time standing up on his feet, had to have abdominal surgery, and is thinner now but can stay up just fine now and is ready to take on my world.  My stars, could this little tiercel be any more perfect?!

His name hasn’t come to me yet.  But it will.

I typed that, looked at it, and thought, Malcolm?  Hmm. Maybe.

Hilary, you’re wonderful! And it is absolutely beautiful.

So fleece my bees and grease my knees
Monday June 07th 2010, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I was channeling my inner Shel Silverstein: oh, I’m looking for my missing fleece…

And my inner Laura Numeroff.

The rest of Edgar’s curly locks had gone missing, and I have someone I want to share him with.

So then a closet suspected of holding them hostage got gleaned of Goodwill-ables.

So then discoveries were made of, wow, that really fits me post-op! Or, wow, that really really doesn’t wear well now with–should I–never mind. Out!

And if a closet gets gleaned of Goodwill-ables, it starts other cleaning in motion.

And if cleaning is in motion, it spreads to other rooms.

And if it spreads to other rooms, you need some hot cocoa. (Trust me on this one.)

And if you have hot cocoa, you have the perfect set-up for knitting with your feet propped up because you could use the rest. But the best knitting requires spinning up some fleece on that wheel. And Edgar would be perfect, if you could find….

And one last thing–if you have a  swept patio and you put a big plastic pot outside there to transplant your tomato plant into and pour in the last of one potting soil bag but decide lifting the other one in its entirety must wait for another day, the squirrels will attack it en masse, grabbing and pulling from opposing sides on their tippy-toes and will knock it over repeatedly trying to climb into it and will roll dirt all over the patio because they know, they just know!, that there has to be good stuff in there just waiting to be raided and you you and YOU get out of here this is MY plunder!

Fer cryin’ out loud, give it a little time, willya?

My little boy
Sunday June 06th 2010, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family

It’s official: now they’re 22, 24, 26, and 28.

He was due Memorial Day.  He came on D-Day instead, exactly 40 years later.  He missed my dad’s birthday by a day, but I got the obstetrician I wanted that way.

I called the OB’s office that June 6 and asked which doctor was on call.

The nurse on the line immediately shot back, and this is a direct quote, “Why, if it’s the wrong one are you going to go out of labor?”

Note that I hadn’t even told her I was *in* labor, but I shot right back, “Yes.”  I am an honest person.

I googled St. Joseph’s in Nashua, NH this morning and was pleased to see that it still exists and still by that name.   Hopefully they’ve got a new AC unit by now. That day, New Hampshire was having a record heat wave, 106, and somehow, at St. Joseph’s, a record baby wave to match: the nursery was used to having a half a dozen. There were 37 newborns, among them, my little guy, and the AC blew its cool.

He’s not so little now. A friend of mine once saw him walking up to us, and from his height of 6’6” or or, exclaimed, “Wow. I’m not used to looking UP at people!”

I used to be bigger than you.  You’re a good man. You picked the best bride on earth, and I am so proud of you both.  Now I’m the one who has to live up to whom you’ve chosen to be, and I look forward to seeing all that is to come.  To life!

Happy Birthday, Richard!

Not just a one-day wing
Sunday June 06th 2010, 10:38 am
Filed under: Wildlife

And the junco and his lady-friend finch were back together on the porch again yesterday, with him feeding her and taking care of her. I’m hoping to see them today, too. (Don’t miss Eric’s falcon photo here and the mouse-over caption.)

It’s a beautiful day out there.

Red light green light
Friday June 04th 2010, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Knit

Looking at the project I haven’t worked on today, and the one over there that got stopped and put aside for such a good, temporary reason (I promised myself), and the one I wish I could get going on over there, it hit me–I have startitis.

I never have startitis anymore.  As a point of pride.  One thing about writing a lace shawls knitting book and knitting every shawl multiple times before publication to check again and again that there were no errors to be inflicted on the innocent means that there was just no time nor room for startitis. None.  You start a project, you plow through it till it’s done and then you can go do the next one, and if it’s a project that’s not going to get done it’s not ever and it’s over.

And then there’s right now.  So many cool ideas want to jump onto the page and the needles all at once, to the point that they’re all getting in each other’s way.  Because–and this is the biggest thing, always was, always will be–I also have so many people that I want to knit for, so many good reasons to do so, and a stitch for you and a stitch for you and a stitch for you and a stitch for you gets nobody clothed.  Come to think of it, there are precious few people on this planet that don’t deserve something handknit with love just for them.

This is the point where I toss my yarn in God’s general direction and say, heck, I can’t figure it out.  You know the territory more than I do and I need a traffic signal at this intersection.

As for tonight, He laughs and says, It doesn’t matter whether it’s a green light or a red if you don’t turn the car on, dear.

(edited to add: I wrote the above, went well okay, then, and sat down with my baby alpaca scarf, just a little thing, and made some good progress after all. Is it the most perfect thing to work on right now? I don’t know. But it felt wonderful to get at it, it’ll finish quickly, and having something completed and available and DONE for whatever moment for whomever, ready to go–yes. Sometimes I need semi-instant gratification like that.)

She’s still crowing about that one
Thursday June 03rd 2010, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

First, Evet’s photos and captions here are just incredible.  Kekoa peeking in through the blinds at City Hall.  Maya missing that landing; being rescued later. The whole thing. Wow.

For tonight’s falcon update, a report from someone on the ground later helped me make sense of who was who and thus why what happened (thank you, Lori). So.

A falcon landed in the early evening on top of the nestbox, its back to the camera with prey in claw: big, I mean big, and not a pigeon.   One of the adults, who turned out to be Clara, landed immediately after on the ledge right by the first.

And then there they stood. Perfectly still. I wondered if the two parents were waiting for the fledglings to arrive for dinner and if they were going to tell them to go pluck their own now? But it was just odd to see them not doing anything with it.

And then the crow put on its best Monty Python accent and waved a weak bit of a hello at the camera, “I’m not dead yet!”

Hey! Maya, it turned out, the one gripping it, bent down.  Steak shouldn’t be that tartare, you stop it.  She stopped it.

I was thinking of the dead crow left on the ledge when Maya fledged, undevoured for hours before they ate it–crows seem not to be their favorite food.  (Neither are they tolerated in harassing the young.)

Finally Kekoa flew in.  And then the three of them stood there stock still like hunters posing for the camera with their trophy. Waiting for the whole family to come to dinner?  Yo?  EC?

Ewwww, Mommmm, crowwwww, I wanted pigeon for dinner!

Finally Maya started in on this plucking thing–and then all at once it was a free-for-all. One flew to the runway with it, one stepped on it, the other pulled the prey and the sibling down the runway a bit, here, you get the wing I  get the rest I carried it up here you couldn’t!

Clara had caught it, it turns out, and had passed it mid-air to Kekoa, who, being male and therefore smaller, was losing altitude under the weight of the monstrous bird.  He then apparently lost the bird.  Just like Veer from last year.  Clara got it back and handed it off to Maya–Maya’s first successful prey transfer, as far as we know. Maya managed to gain altitude and got it up there to that nestbox. (Neener neener, little guy.)

Where she had to figure out what to do next.

They were later seen taking to the skies, dancing for the camera again, but I was off to knitting group and had to call it a night.

Where I knitted featherations.

Eyrie sweet eyrie
Wednesday June 02nd 2010, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There was the most intense, colorful sunset this evening: a long beach of gold reaching towards the top of City Hall towering over San Jose, and above it, layer on layer of white wisps of cloud against lighter and darker shades of blue sky, like a tide rolling in, the foam spreading forward over the water to tickle your feet in the sand.

And framed in that sky stood a peregrine falcon at the top corner of the building.  I so hope someone took permanent stills of what could be seen on the cam.  The wind was blowing her upper feathers outward, like a woman wearing a shawl against the cold on a brisk evening by the Bay.

Then at least two (EC, the father, was shown perched on the other side of the building) took off to go splash in that air.  Playing. Soaring. Swooping. Not in the frenzied fury of protecting their eyrie but just trying out, yet again, how it feels to ride a thermal. All that time in the nestbox, Maya, did you ever imagine we could do this!

One swooped toward the camera.  Hey you!  Come soar with us too!

Deely-ted to see them again
Tuesday June 01st 2010, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was telling a friend her dog’s picture with it wearing deelyboppers was cute, and I got back a query of “Deelyboppers?”

That gave me one of those instant, oh, good, now I’m old! moments.  So I found this site.  I had guessed it was the 80’s, maybe early 80’s when they started being a big thing?

1982. I’m good. And scroll down a bit and check out that cordless phone. I knew someone who had one of those back when we were all dirt-poor grad students living in married student housing, making her purchase (her husband had just accepted a semi-mythical Real Job) all the more memorable: the sound quality was so much bad radio static, the price something Steve Jobs would have loved. (The electronics, though, not so much.)

Yes, children, when you were little we had to shovel the driveway both ways uphill in the snow with our telephones. Well, they were big enough to shovel with, anyway. If we’d had one of those. Which we didn’t.

But those deelyboppers?  Baby, we put those on you.