Tuesday August 31st 2010, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Life

There was one other thing about Saturday night at that clubhouse: one person actually DID see me.

A young mom with two very small children, one of them barely old enough to walk. They were doing the charming wobbly meandering exploring of the great outside world that people of that size love to do, and she was keeping a bored but careful eye on them while letting them roam a bit.  The little boys stayed together, pretty much. I’m sure she was making sure they didn’t get too near that pool back there.

Which meant she was standing in the walkway between the gate I was stuck behind and across from that open door I was so fervently wanting to reach.  She was in.  I was out.  She saw me, then carefully turned and did the I’m-not-seeing-you pretense, glancing my way occasionally without quite making eye contact again.

If that gate was locked in my face it was obviously because I didn’t belong there.  Well then.

Now picture it, a potluck party going on in that clubhouse, and me, dressed in a skirt and silk blouse and what I think is one of the most elegant shawls I’ve knit, a chocolate torte held up in one hand and my artsy hand-carved sassafras wood cane in the other hand, justifying my wavering balance.  The Birkenstocks.

Quite the scary stranger stereotype.

I called out Evet’s name as Evet walked past that doorway. Waved that torte. The cane.

I wonder if, feeling guilty later, the young woman perhaps ventured to check whose name the clubhouse was reserved in for the evening.

All I needed her to have done was to step five steps sideways to poke a head in the door and ask, Is there an Evet here? Someone’s trying to get your attention.

To be fair, yes, small children change direction and speed fast and unexpectedly; she would have had to shepherd them in the same direction to keep them in her direct line of sight.

It was easier to just keep to her own business and pretend she didn’t know I was there.  And I, openly dissed, could not make myself ask her to do for me what she did not want to do for me. Because if she refused even that–I’m a mom too. I would not want one of my children to feel so much worse the way that making that choice would cause her to feel later.

I have often thought how true the words are of one of Rachel Remen’s cancer patients, who told Dr. Remen, I have found there are two kinds of people: those who love. And those who fear.

When we close down and deny the humanity in those we don’t know, we deny our own.

I’m looking at this from the standpoint of middle age, remembering the boredom and the hassles and the interrupted-sleep nights of when my children were little.  Of some of the things I might have done differently had I had enough rest and some time to myself to just sit and think.  Which, come to think of it, is why I took up handicrafts–sewing, then smocking, then went back to my love of knitting–when my children were small. It stayed done. It gave me a sense of creative accomplishment.

And it gave me time to center myself and think.

I like to think I left that woman with a life lesson she won’t forget.  I like to think she’ll choose differently next time, never again wanting to feel the sting of that regret.  Opening the gate for me, or asking the others first to make sure and then letting someone else there take the responsibility of doing so–it would have been so easy. I would have been so very grateful.  Hey, she’d have been invited in with her little boys for celebratory chocolate torte with the rest of us, first piece!

There are many ways to learn not to choose fear.

There’s still some leftover torte.

Suddenly quiet
Monday August 30th 2010, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family

At 1 am, not sleeping, I got up and walked towards the light brightening up the room from under the door. Hey you–what else can I do to help?

She sent me to bed. An hour later, she went too.

We all got up at dark o’clock for Oakland Airport across the Bay and the upper edge of the sun just started to appear over the eastern ridges a little before we got to our exit.

One very tired Michelle threw her arms around me with a fervent “I love you, Mom!” as I got out at the curb a moment for that.  It was so early.  The place was not crowded; Richard had pulled in at the end of the airline’s lineup, a bit of a distance from the skycaps, and as a matter of fact it looked like it was the only airline gathering passengers at that hour.

Michelle in her fatigue tried to get her three rolling suitcases going towards those skycaps. The littlest kept flipping on her.  Maybe she could stack them. Then she had twice the flipping.  This just isn’t working!  I said to Richard as I got back out again, You may have to circle around; he, affirming my choice, said, Sure.

The traffic control guy nodded his approval at my helping her in her struggle, I was told afterwards, and together we rolled those suitcases to where she needed them to go.  I turned, expecting to see the Prius gone, but no; there he was still.

She and we had been silently wished Godspeed on our way by a man wearing bright traffic stripes who knew travel.

Lisa, bless her, picked her up at the other end.

We got home in time to take a nap before that early meeting of his.

And all that stuff
Sunday August 29th 2010, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

What I said to LauraN after her daughter’s comment was, beats serpent-dip-it-thusly finding new uses for a fondue pot.

And on that quick note, I’ll go back to helping Michelle with her last-minute packing. Like covering up her lemon bars, finding her another shipping box, wrapping her cinnamon rolls carefully for eating on the way to the airport, finding another box, putting away her leftover baby bok choy tomato soup, helping her finish her homemade dark-chocolate nutella she wants me to have, making sure she has cocoa for her hot chocolate and don’t forget your mug, and picking and eating the first homegrown tomato (which needed another day or two but it was share it now or never), a little Durkees sauce on our three carefully carved pieces.

Go Blue! It’s going to be very, very quiet after tomorrow.  She made sure we wouldn’t starve.

Chocolate on wheels
Saturday August 28th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

The guy in south San Jose tried my car this morning and it seemed peachy fine. Huh. So he took it out on a short road test and suddenly all four brakes completely locked down and those wheels turned not at all. He had to manually disconnect them and get that car back to his bay. The man is definitely braver than I.

I am all the more amazed they turned–just enough–for me when I desperately needed them to.

He commented that the brakes were new; yes, they were. That smoke I saw? Turns out it was a puff rising up from the tires coming off the freeway with the brakes in full blast yesterday.  The master cylinder was toast.

My regular mechanic is closed weekends.  Couldn’t ask him for advice.

This guy was open Saturdays.

The dealer is closed on weekends.

This guy couldn’t get a new master cylinder from the dealer till Monday. Would I like a rebuilt one, then?

I asked for an estimate while quietly googling ’99 Chrysler Town and Country ones: list price was over $1500 just for the part.  That was about the Blue Book right there.

The rebuilt cylinder? With tax and labor, it rang up at $377.  Amazing how cheap that looked by then.

They finished it at closing time, we got way back down there to pick it up, and I got to go off at last to a long-anticipated party of peregrine volunteers.  I had my car and I would get to go after all! Good and late, but verily, them’s the brakes.

It was held at a condo clubhouse.

The gate (there being a pool behind it) was on autolock.

The door to the clubhouse was open and no farther away from me than the length of my living room, and I could see two people I knew in there through the glass walls.

I called out.  Nada.  I waved my cane above the gate. Nada.  I held up the chocolate torte I’d brought for it. Nada.  They were right there! I was right here! If just one person would glance up!  I tried calling them on my cellphone and found I didn’t have their numbers in it.  I stood there for ten minutes, sure that someone surely must…c’mon, guys!… And then, as I got back in my very own car (yay!) going back to my own home, I reminded myself how good it was that I could do that again.

I laughed at the sudden thought of, me, I may be fairly invisible, but good European dark chocolate?

Ah, well, tonight was just trying to make tomorrow look good, right?

(I got profuse apologies, but there was absolutely nothing to apologize for. They’d had it propped open and the prop-er had fallen.  Sometimes life just does what it does and you go on to the next.)

I’ve got my car back! And a little extra chocolate on the side. I’m sure I can find something to do with it.

Do not pass Go
Friday August 27th 2010, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

So I had all these things I was going to do today, and one was a trek to the outlets in Gilroy an hour+ away to look for warmer clothes for the daughter about to need them.  On a whim, I threw a small knitting project in my purse, feeling a little silly but you never know.  On another whim, I said I’d drive  and Michelle went, Oh! I thought I was going to. Sure, and how about I do it on the way back?


Which is why a more experienced driver was at the wheel and the other driver got to learn new things without having to make any decisions in the moment.

Heavy traffic, lots of braking ahead, I was slowing down–when suddenly the brakes felt dead. Boom just like that.  My car is old but well maintained but oh well.  I was sure I was going to slam into the guy up there ahead of me, but no, the brakes actually worked even if they didn’t feel like it while I was pushing as hard as I could. Thank heavens!

I was in the next-to-left lane and there was an exit just ahead. I managed to get over several lanes and the traffic just opened up for me when I turned on my signal, how in that mess, I don’t know, thank you everybody and somehow it worked without all the things that could have happened happening.

Off. I got far enough down the ramp to where there was, for whatever reason, a stretch of suddenly cleared-off pavement in the margin, not much longer than one car’s length. I took it.   Before and after that point, the breakdown lane was all covered in dry tinderbrush that believe me you do not want to touch with a hot car in a California summer.

And that’s when I saw the smoke.  Just a little, then pouring out from under the hood on the right.  Please don’t blow up on us.  Just please don’t blow up on us.  (I flashbacked: I once saw a car with its engine on fire shooting massive flames fifteen feet high and it was three blocks from my house: the driver had pulled over right under a very dried-out olive tree. In front of a gas station.  I thought, flashback, you are not helping me here.  Shut up. It shut up.)

Meantime, behind us, people were speeding and cutting over the line on the offramp, seeing us and veering back into their lane and I was glad for every inch away from them we had–and very glad to be off that freeway!

Where, while we waited for the tow, grateful for cellphones, we saw a fire truck and then an ambulance making their way forward as the traffic started to back up past that point.  Someone was having a way worse day than we were. Gratitude check there.

AAA towed us to the nearest AAA-approved garage.  While I gave the owner our contact information, the tow driver quietly said to Michelle, This is NOT a good end of town.  Would you like me to drop you two off at Denny’s to wait for your ride home?

I almost hugged the guy. I did hug Richard later.

A shout out to KatherineL, who offered to rescue us when we couldn’t reach Richard at first. Thank you *so* much.

Coming home, trying not to feel weird about leaving my car to an unknown fate in the hands of strangers, Richard had a doctor’s appointment he was only going to make to on time now if he could go in the carpool lane.  We swung by home, let Michelle mercifully out, and I went with him.  He told me I didn’t have to, he could risk it if I wanted to get out too; I told him, You rescued me; I rescue you. It’s only fair.

And I was so glad I had that little knitting project.  My coming grandson’s little hat finally got all but the decreasing done while I waited. I think I really needed that.

And yet–Michelle and I were talking afterwards and we were both saying, You know? For all that that could have been, that was as pleasant as it could possibly have been under the circumstances. The tow truck driver was a sweetheart, the garage owner seemed a decent type, KatherineL was ready to run right there, Richard enjoyed the pumpkin pie piece I bought him to go while waiting at Denny’s. It could all have been so much worse.  We got off easy, we really did.

At least someone’s going to be warmer because of that trip!

The long un_winding row’d
Thursday August 26th 2010, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,LYS

(Actually, I should have positioned those in an oval and captioned it, “Braaaaaaains…”)

So I had another bright-eyed idea on that same endless project, with the result that I was late for Purlescence because I ended up frogging four rows x 434 stitches, tinking that last one carefully stitch by stitch back onto the needles.  Slow way no how was I going to leave that mess in the middle, stranded.

And then I had to leave Knit Night less than an hour later because I had to pick up my husband at the airport. But in between!

I’d brought the unrepentant wool with me and I never got to it. (Funny how that was probably going to happen anyway.) I got saved by Susan, if I heard her name right, from Abstract Fiber.

She was there with samples.  There were projects made–oh, man, were they gorgeous! And she had a large bag full of sample-size skeins.

“Take some!” Gigi and Jasmin and Pamela urged.

How much are they?

“They’re free!”

Since when… okay, why? Alright, I’ll take one. And I picked out a few and tried to decide which, while they explained that they’d already chosen a whole bunch and that Abstract Fiber does not sell skeins with knots: so if they come across one, snip right there, you’re out of here. Eventually they have enough of those that they give them away as samples.

I’ll take one. I assume it’s one per customer. (That got me a lot of, Nah…!)

They kept egging me on. I kept saying, but…! Here, you, did you get to see them yet? And you over there? I want you to pick out all you’d like, I don’t want to hog all the purples or the anythings.

Jasmin dumped the whole bag out for everyone so it would be easier to see. I was assured it was not the first time that evening; I’d just come in late.

The end result was, I said I was going to choose some and put the rest back, that this mound was embarrassing–and then I turned my head for one second after boxes of regular skeins went past, to go ask about those because I really really like Artfibers yarns, and Gigi madly and gleefully stuffed miniskeins in my knitting bag behind me. (There were way more than those still left, honest.)

I was stumped when they grinned, “So what are you going to do with them all?” Uhbuhduhbuhduh. I dunno, but I’m sure going to have fun finding out!

(Burnside Bridge. I LOVE their Burnside Bridge colorway, always have. Look what followed me home too!)

I have a ton of work to do to justify all that woolly greed. And if you too love Artfibers and are in the area, Purlescence in Sunnyvale stocks them.

Oh. Yes. Hubby is home (yay!)  I managed to wait a whole half hour after we walked in the door, showing that of course my priorities are straight, why would you ever wonder, before I went and balled up that first Burnside.

And one last thing, one non sequitur to top off the evening: Michelle is madly and suddenly in need of laptop shopping. She found one with lots of features, except for one: it’s apparently put out by a videogame company with their name emblazoned across the top, and as she put it, “I have my pride!”

I offered to knit it a tattoo to cover it over.

“Nice try, Mom.”

Growing up, moving out
Wednesday August 25th 2010, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

In anticipation of our own nest about to empty: Veer, the baby peregrine tiercel (male) hatched last year at City Hall, has clearly found and established his personal space, having been found there, repeatedly.  Although he won’t officially be a mature adult till next spring, his adult featheration is pretty much in–and he has a falcon (technical term for female) hanging out with him these days. Look at that lovely white line over her beak. Just like his mom’s, only a bit poofier, even shaped like knit stitches across a row; ya gotta love it. (His father’s is dark all the way down.)

I guess it’s official: everybody’s into knitting now!

Authentic laceknitting climate
Tuesday August 24th 2010, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

So we finally got our summer.   It’s today and yesterday, with records broken yesterday and probably today too. Then it’s supposed to go back to  the 60ish-to-70-degree coolness with the usual breeze off the Bay that we’ve had for weeks, perfect shawl weather. Tomorrow.

There’s been a goldfinch just outside my window putting on quite a display today:  it’s been holding its tail stretched open as wide as it can go, trying to cool off.  I’ve been watching it relax, go oh wait that’s right and stretch it back out–hold it right there–that’s better. Relax, flare out, hold. Repeat.

On the ground, the mourning doves are winging it in their own AC effort.

My hanging sugarpine cone was held to its string up there, I learned, by glue. It came unglued in the heat.  Smashing Sugarpines would make a great rock band name.

The suet cake is dripping slowly.

The squirrels are looking longingly through the window at my tomatoes that are grabbing at their chance to finally turn color–inside, out of reach of their greedy little thievery.

A house finch lands and spreads his tail in a wide V too as I type this.

I tell you. It’s feather-and-fan weather out there.

The Frog Ness Monster
Monday August 23rd 2010, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Knit

*siren*    *the lights flash at last*

Knitting Police.  Ma’am, do you know why I asked you to purl over?

No, Officer, I don’t.

You’re impeding frog-ness and you have stitches piling up behind you that saw very well what you did. I got a 911 call from them.

I didn’t do anything wrong, Officer! Just speeding on past the swatching stage… And yeah, I did change it just a bit–well, a lot on this version over the first shawl–but I did the math and jotted down the numbers and I knew it would work right, so I thought I’d go ahead and get started on this second one…

I thought so. Look, lady, I don’t want to get in a row with you.  Just come off those needles peacefully now.

I will not! I’ve done nothing wrong!

That’s what they all say.

…Oh… An extra stitch at the end of… But how on earth…

(And then she proved to be a repeat offender…)

Which is how this knitter spent three hours in knitter jail today and had the book thrown at her.  This might also help explain why it is not yet on payroll: it has to be done exactly right.

One row. I got row finished for three hours’ work, not because I needed more swatching, not because it was hard–it wasn’t–but because I was distracted and wasn’t paying enough attention to reading the actual knitting at a point where the pattern didn’t show well yet. I kept making dumb mistakes in very small dark stitches on a dark needle.  Tink, tink, again and again till I finally frogged way back in disgust, thinking: I could have wound a second 500+ yard ball and started over on a different needle by now and been past that point.  But wherever the mistake was, *that* should get it because I know it was perfect up till there!

And then I put it down and walked away for hours.  I finally went back to it and simply made myself get past the point that had stymied me. (And thought, What was my problem here! That was so easy!)

Like I knew all along it should be.  Sometimes you just need to go do something else for awhile.

But I also firmly believe that if you have to frog part of a project you intend to finish, you should try to get past where you were on it before the day ends if you possibly can in order to help keep it from becoming a *TOAD.  Or else the row’dkill that project.

And it is on its merry way now. Looking good!

(p.s. And this is another reason why I knit each project multiple times before putting it out there. It has to be perfect and then proven perfect again in exactly that rendition. Better yet, at least three times.  And I do.)


*Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust

Sunday musings
Sunday August 22nd 2010, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

Kyle and his wife and small children were here visiting today from the Boston area.  His is still one of my favorite stories ever. We caught up a bit, and I got his tired new babe-in-arms to grin and play peek a boo and to start to giggle. Success!  It was so good to see them.

A total non sequitor, but, I haven’t seen a possum in our yard since we cut down our date palm years ago.  Brought back memories.  But there was one on the back patio tonight and it ambled away at the sight of me, sniffing at the birdseed can and then hunkering in a corner behind the earthquake-supplies larger trashcan; I called out to Michelle. Hey! You want to see a possum?!

She came, but in the dark it was hard to tell where it had gone off to. I went out there in my stocking feet (not handknit), thinking one should only be so stupid about this (have you seen the teeth on those things?), camera in hand, and hoped the flash would find it for her and me both. Flash flash flash. Or if nothing else it would discourage it from staying.

Next time.  And surely there will be one.

Meantime, I pulled up the tight-fitting handle over the lid on the birdseed to lock it shut for the first time in a long time.

These are the good old days
Saturday August 21st 2010, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family

B R R R R R I N G!

88, 89, 90,

B R R R R R I N G!

91, he’s home ninety- too, 93,

B R R R R R I N G!

94, 95, 96…

He pops his head around the corner a moment later. “It was for you.”

“I was counting. And I was almost done.”

Ya gotta love a man whose reaction to that was to grin–he gets this knitting counting thing–and then to go tell Michelle himself over the phone what other grocery item to pick up.

Yet another shawl (funny how that happens)
Friday August 20th 2010, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Knit

I could have done one more repeat, and I didn’t break the yarn yet in order to leave that as an option, but I just so much wanted to be done with the project and it seemed like it had already gotten to a good length for what I was looking for…

…Which of course (adding a little water to it) it hadn’t. Lying down, anyway. But in the circular-shawl version of “swatches lie,” as soon as I pick it up the weight of the wool will add the inches back on that I was expecting.

Two strands of Tess Designer Yarns laceweight, for two reasons: I wanted the raspberry/peach combination to melt into itself, which it did, by combining two in the same dyelot, and frankly because I just didn’t feel like knitting that fine and fragile a yarn by itself on the tiny needles it would require.  I had two thousand yards of the stuff in my stash.  I liked that colorway. (I mean, I really like that colorway!)  I wanted semi-instant gratification.

Melinda, you do nice work!

(And now I’m test-knitting draft two in a pattern of…  On to the next…!)

Back to school
Thursday August 19th 2010, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,LYS

The last two flowers out of four. So out of season, so cool to have them in bloom just because they happen to feel like it right now.

Meantime. Tonight.

(Nah, couldn’t be.) I kept knitting.  Several people in the shop had already commented on my colorway, and the woman who’d just come out of a class in the back seemed to like my shawl project. Except she kept looking at me, not just–but nah, couldn’t be.

From across the room she was going: (Nah, couldn’t be.) She was talking to Kay about learning to knit shawls. They picked one up off the back of a chair and Kay was explaining how to do its simple dropped-stitch pattern.

Then Kay mentioned my name. I didn’t hear her, but I sure saw the effect.  Suddenly, this woman is bounding over towards me and I’m exclaiming, Are you KATHY?!

Now I don’t have to tell you the hugs that followed: our kids went through school together clear back to kindergarten. Back in the day, the elementary let the older grades out I think 40 minutes after the younger grades, and when you had kids on both sides of that, you learned fast that there needed to be extra adult presence on that playground in between. And so we parents who picked up our kids would sit and chat.

Kathy reminisced over the times I would bring my spinning wheel, and how I’d spun up Cole’s samoyed’s fur. I’d made it into a hair scrunchy for his mom.

(Take a standard covered-elastic hairband. Take yarn and crochet around it until there’s no visible sign of elastic left.  Work it as big and ornate or as tiny and simple as you want.)

And now she’s learning to knit and wants to make a shawl. I think I could help her along the way with any questions, why, yes.  So for Kathy’s sake, here are a few old pictures of projects from my book.

One last thing, just because it tickled me: Richard mentioned tonight what one of his co-workers had told him today–the lady was stopped at a light and heard ducks. A little late in the season for ducklings but you never know and you have to watch out for them, you can’t run over them! Where would the water be that they’d be toddling towards…and so she was looking and looking all over. Where are the ducks! Quackquackquack.

She finally looked up. And there, perched on the wires above the intersection, were several parrots.  Speaking in Duck. (Mari and Kathryn, that’s for you.)

Hey, lady, no Peking!

Throwing tomatoes
Wednesday August 18th 2010, 9:03 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

We had one time, years ago, when we were driving through California’s Central Valley around harvest season and found ourselves behind a semi.  It was loaded past the top with grocery-store-ripe (as in, not) tomatoes.  We couldn’t see any wooden crates dividing them into layers, although there may have been; from our vantage point, it was simply one giant  mounded-over pile and one could only imagine the weight on the ones at the bottom. Had to be for canning, right?

We kept our car back a little bit after the first time that truck hit a bump. We didn’t want those fresh round rocks in an argument with our windshield.

This is the second year in a long while that I’ve planted my own and I’m hoping it becomes a habit.

And so I was so looking forward to that first really good, sweet, homegrown tomato on my (yes just) one little plant.  That biggest one was a goodly bright orange and getting brighter, not quite red yet; it didn’t have that intense tomato essence yet, but give it time.  I tried not to examine it too closely too many times a day.  Getting there…

And then the water that I always have set out for the critters got pulled over by one of them and emptied out and I didn’t notice immediately.  I found out when I looked out the window and discovered my so-anticipated veggie out in the yard: when I stepped out to see, hoping that maybe just maybe I could simply retrieve it (good luck with that), I found that one of the squirrels had stripped the side open, sucked it out, and left the hard outer carcass lying there in reproach.  It didn’t even eat the piece it had torn off.  It didn’t even pull it to the trees for a proper burial in hopes it would sprout more like the one squirrel had done with the whipped cream cup.

It didn’t like grocery-store-hard tomatoes.


Chucked that one. Okay, then. Four more to go and lots of tomato flowers.

Since then, no more fruit has set and the plant has just barely been hanging in there. I’m thinking I got a determinate variety, which sets all at once and then dies, good for someone doing canning, rather than an indeterminate, which keeps producing merrily till frost like I’d hoped for.

The plant is in a pot and I keep threatening to bring it inside out of the squirrels’ reach, but it’s pretty leggy and windy and viney, y’know?  Those four tomatoes, hanging on. It’s been a slow, cold season this year.

I noted a black squirrel rubbing its face vigorously today–I’d shaken some very hot pepper flakes around those four after the theft. Busted!

Meantime, a few days ago I thought part of the problem with losing our water supply out there is these plastic disposable cups I’ve been using (because I don’t care what happens to them) –they’re old, they’re thin, they crack easily.  I ought to put something sturdier and steadier out there.

And so I braced an old Tupperware cup in the usual spot and filled it up.

It didn’t stay put long at all!  It disappeared, and I had to go looking.

Dang, that must have been one hard tomato.  But someone kept on trucking–I found the plastic slivers.  And this time it *was* over by the tree trunks.  That squirrel kept on chewing, sure the juice and seeds must be in there somewhere: Come ON! GIVE it to me!

I don’t think Tupperware’s lifetime warranty quite covers that.

Tuesday August 17th 2010, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Life

The baby hat (I love saying “for my grandson.” I’m going to be saying that so many times!) is something my hands can only do a few rows of at a time on those tiny needles.

But it was so hard to put down when I had to!

And so a stalled-out shawl project on 5 mms is off and running again, something far easier to do as my hands finish recovering from hauling luggage across airports and an arthritis flare. An hour Sunday, an hour and a half yesterday, two and a half today: making progress. You practice. You build the hand strength back up again.

And it got me thinking on an old thought.  Of how, all those years I studied piano under Louise Kupelian (I remember how much she used to love a good bilingual French/English pun), I was learning how to translate symbols on a page into movements of my fingers–and how, having learned that first visual-to-motor language, how much easier it made it to learn to knit complicated things, reading the knitting-language symbols across the row while my hands played in time.  And then eventually to compose my own.

When my visual memory was damaged by my lupus, charts were gone (I’ve long since made my peace with that) but those written-outs, closer to piano notations, they stayed.

About five more hours of work and I’ll be done with the knitting that the bear scowled at.

My folks had no idea how much more than piano they were giving me lessons for as they sent me off to Somerset.

(And this is so much not what I expected to blog about when I sat down to write.  I wonder… And I wish my old teacher and her family all the best, wherever life has taken them by now.)


Added Wednesday morning in response to Don’s comment: muscle memory is when I can sit down with a music book open at some piece I had not thought of in 30 years, start playing it by sightreading and then within a measure or two, my fingers are off and playing the thing exactly so, book free (as long as I don’t think about it too hard: the moment I start paying attention to what they’re doing, I need those written notes!)

This goes deeper–this goes to learning new stuff entirely in a new language for having learned the first foreign language well. Mrs. Kupelian used to say that if she never taught us anything else, she wanted us to learn to sightread.  This, now this, now this, read read read.  I left at high school graduation with a very large pile of books of different composers. (And the only thing the movers lost when we left New Hampshire in ’87… It pains me still.)

I remember reading a study once about stroke patients that said that those who learned a musical instrument in childhood recovered mobility far better than those who didn’t–and the more that instrument made you use the two hands and ten fingers independently of each other, the better. (The piano wins! Oh, sorry, Jim, no–the organ does!)