And that was who
Friday August 04th 2023, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,Life

The email from Cottage Yarns said that starting next week the shop will be closed for two weeks for their vacation.

I had been meaning for over a month to get up there to replenish my Mecha supply for Zoom hat knitting.

There was this persistent thought…and I wondered, Is this just me? Or should I? So I did what I do and said a prayer: if You want me to do this, then please make it so obvious that I will never question whether I got it right or not. Help it be unmistakeable. Either way, please bless my friends, separate from any of that–they’re such good people.

I pictured her needing to attend to customers with questions, and thought in no way do I want to do anything that would distract her from what she needs to do to earn a living (I know the rent there is crazy) and sometimes it gets pretty busy, especially right before a long break like that. I put it in G_d’s hands to handle the details and I would try to take my cues from that.

I got ready and headed on up there, hoping.

There was no other customer in there the whole time:

I walked in that door and Kathryn’s face lit up, delighted to see me, and then she immediately exclaimed over my gerdan. What was that? I told her how to spell it: like garden, only with the e and the a switched. Her husband wanted to know, How was it made?

Glass beads woven on a small loom. Made for me by a woman in Ukraine, where these are traditional.

They follow the news on Ukraine closely, they told me, and we talked about today’s developments. The listing warship that was towed away by the Russians after Ukraine’s successful drone.

Kathryn is far from the gushing type, but wow, that necklace: the flowers that looked so realistic, the wheat at the top, the sunflower at the bottom. So pretty. She just couldn’t get over it.

I showed her the picture of my sister’s afghan so far, and turns out they’d been watching the Little League games. They might even have seen Parker, and even the possibility delighted us all.

I waited till she’d rung up my yarn.

“I planned this,” I told her, pulling out the little box that the gerdan had come in inside the shipping box. I quickly took it off my neck and held it out to her along with its box. While she stood there speechless, I took out an identical box from the same artist, took out the big sunflower gerdan and put that one on me.

I have several, I told her, and every time I’m out and about it makes someone’s day to see me wearing one. Ukrainians know what it is and they feel the support it conveys. You see more people than I do. You can do more than I can alone. This was meant for you.

I told her that I had felt strongly to give one to a friend, a retired NASA rocket scientist I kid you not, and ordered this one made–but she had picked a different one. Which is fine. What I didn’t know was that she was teaching classes to help Ukrainian refugees assimilate and they took one look at her walking into class after that wearing a gerdan and they knew exactly what it was and what it meant and how much their teacher loved them, visibly loved them.

And yet I still I had this other one. I have always really liked it–but I had wondered who it was meant to be for, because it had always felt like it was waiting, somehow. And today I finally knew.

I knew it was just her colors.

What I didn’t know is that all her childhood she had declared that she was going to be a florist when she grew up. “And look at me,” she laughed, holding her arms up, taking in the sweep of the room, embracing it all: “I’m a yarn store owner!”

Wearing flowers so beautifully created? To support Ukraine and her people?

It meant the world to her to be able to. She had never known such a thing existed.

I told her I had promised Oleksandra that I would wear her sunflower gerdan in celebration the day Ukraine wins the war.

“I will wear mine, too,” Kathryn promised. She laughed again, adding that she would on her vacation, too! And a whole lot of other days! She loved it so much.

They’re going to visit the area where she grew up, near my oldest, and near one of their children.

I came away from that conversation thinking, and I bet you’re going to find the perfect place, buy it, be done with your unpleasant LYS landlord and move away and my favorite yarn store will be gone forever. I selfishly hope not.

But wherever they go, love will be there because that is who they are and what they do.

Sunflowers and baby’s breath
Friday July 21st 2023, 8:51 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I was walking into Trader Joe’s yesterday when my eyes met those of an older woman looking into mine with clear and delighted recognition on her part. Ukrainian Orthodox, was my guess. I noted she did a quick glance at my chest, but no, I was not wearing a gerdan this time.

My mistake and one I instantly felt a pang at. I try to put one on before any outing around here for the sake of the refugees, if I’m not wearing an embroidered blouse from there, and instead she was the one smiling and putting me at ease.

I had not been planning on buying more of either for the moment.

She’ll never know it but I’m sure the impact on me of that, of how it made me feel that what I’ve been trying to do is actually more important to the community than I’d had any idea–and not just to me–is part of how the following happened.

What I wrote this morning to a Ukrainian artist I had not previously actually interacted with but whose page I had followed for months:

This is a beautiful necklace and I have admired your skill and art, but had not done more than that.

I woke up this morning with the surprise of a sense of certainty that was completely unexpected that I needed to buy this necklace: for me, but especially for you.

I of course cannot know your specific circumstances at all. I pray for Ukraine and its people every day, and somehow this morning it felt like God was saying, this daughter of mine needs to know that she is not alone. Go be with her. Share the love of her work with her out loud where she can hear it.

And so I bought it and am very grateful for the privilege of doing so. Thank you for making this. I will wear it with pride and love and much gratitude, and I wish you all my very best from across the world.

Such a beautiful letter I got back. It will stay with me a long, long time.

All in it together
Tuesday July 18th 2023, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

He’s a fellow gardening and fruit tree enthusiast, so I wore my beaded cherry tree necklace to the doctor’s today. Besides, it’s pretty and I’m a relentless showoff for other people’s art.

He liked it, and I told him a woman in Ukraine had made it for me. In Kherson.

He took a deep breath at that one. Then a quiet, “Wow.”

She had sent me pictures of her apartment, I added, nodding, and had declared, We will repel the invaders. We will rebuild.

We quickly got on with what was supposed to be the point of the appointment, tests, lupus, meds, etc.

But as it was time to leave, he suddenly stopped and turned back to me. He’d clearly been thinking about it because he said, “Please give her all my best.”

He paused a moment, then added with maybe more emotion than he’d intended, “Please tell her we’re all with her.” He wanted so much to convey that. I promised him I would.

And I remembered the time he had had to cancel an appointment with me to fly to his elderly widowed mom in Hong Kong when she had been ill. He had never outright said it but I knew that that was while the mainland authorities were violently putting down large pro-democracy protests. But his mom needed him. He came. Her whole country…

Please tell her we’re all with her.

That I did, and why it was especially meaningful to me to hear it coming from him.

Grieving quietly in the garden
Thursday June 22nd 2023, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life

Can you hear me, Major Tom

…For here am I sitting in my tin can

Far below the world

Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do…

–With a prayer for the families of the men lost in the Titan. And all those at sea in the Mediterranean.

Somehow, today my philodendron decided to bloom. This is not something it did the first twenty or maybe even thirty years we lived here.

It sent up a bud a week or two ago (see the shriveled yellowing stalk above and just to the left in the second picture) but that one never opened up. This one did, and its spadix (the peeled banana part) leaned out around noon, following the sun, straightening back up again after its rays moved on past.

The site in that link says the fruit is toxic but that the flower part actually does taste rather like a banana.

Cue the Hey Mikey! Life cereal commercial of my youth: I’m not going to try it, YOU try it! Where’s a Mikey when you need one.

And then I planted some seeds. I hadn’t been planning to, but the phrase, To life! just kept demanding it of me. To life. Know the loss, feel the grief, but honor their memory by never stop looking forward.




Flooded with thoughts
Wednesday June 21st 2023, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

I grew up in a house and neighborhood with wood siding in an area dominated by brick homes reminiscent of the colonial era–after all, George Washington himself made use of the blacksmith shop a half mile away. Tradition.

So there’s been this odd interest that I wouldn’t have guessed I had at seeing what a brick house looks like if you could see how it’s built.

A war is not how I wanted to do that.

I sent a private note of admiration for her talent and of support.

In response, she sent me pictures: shredded drywall, pock marks in the bricks behind where that drywall had fallen from, a tennis ball blasted across the room, broken things, crumbled things, but overall, the walls were intact. Or enough so, anyway, and she vows to rebuild. This is her home. In Kherson.

Her mother’s, though, was closer to the dam that the invaders had blown up and it is ruined. But she’s alive. And they will come back from this.

This is the woman who created my cherry tree gerdan, the most intricate one I have. It took me a year to decide to spend that much–but I could just hear my art dealer father exclaiming over the skill and talent that went into it and how much of my own family’s history it reflects. All those summer trips to pick-your-own farms, all those hours and hours of jarring and jamming.

My own Stella cherry looks just like this right now.

I am so glad I got it.

She’s working on a new design right now as a way of coping (bead on with confidence through all crises, paraphrased the knitter to herself, nodding her head) and I am checking her shop every day because I want to see what it will be and because, having seen what she personally is facing, it feels even more imperative to help. There is the World Central Kitchen–and there are individuals. I can’t do everything, but I can do some things.

Getting to wear her artwork is just the cherry on top.

Wednesday June 07th 2023, 9:38 pm
Filed under: History,Life

During the worst of our wildfires a few years ago, our air quality index hit 385, if I remember correctly; our warnings to stay inside lasted 31 days.

With the Canadian wildfires, New York City hit AQI 407 today.

My first reaction to the news photos was, but you can still see the building beyond even if it’s a hazy orange–we couldn’t. After reading that number, though, I remembered cameras can’t fathom how dense that smoke can be. I could not get mine to take any picture that showed how we saw it.

On days when you can’t tell the sun ever rose nor where it is…

I so feel for what everybody on the east coast is going through. Wishing air filters and cleansing rain and the ends of the fires for all concerned. Wear a K95 mask outdoors. Stay safe out there.

Cargo, car go
Friday May 05th 2023, 8:12 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

You know Russia doesn’t think their invasion plan is going so well when one of their guys goes on record claiming the Americans started the whole thing because they’ve got a volcano in Yellowstone that’s going to wipe out all of North America so they were out to expand their territory.

Say what now?

Ukraine is like this warden: Get this snarling thing out of here and send it back where it belongs.

A little decorum
Wednesday April 12th 2023, 8:57 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

It has been in the news that a far-right Federalist Society judge was asked to speak at Stanford and was shouted down by the crowd. Many, including me, are disappointed in those students and think they could have handled it better.

So it was interesting to read these two comments in the NY Times, with #1 providing context I’ve seen nowhere else and #2 being exactly what I think they should have done. (Hey! The Mighty Moo! WJ was built next to one of the last dairy farms in Montgomery County, Maryland, sold ice cream to the kids during lunch break, but later became the new headquarters of Marriott International while the cow mascot lived on. The resident alumna can brag all day about what a great high school it is.)

Quote 1: “I’m a Stanford law student and feel it’s important to share some missing context here. Judge Duncan did not enter the room with the intention to give a lecture. He taunted people. He recorded a video as he walked in of the people in the room, his phone inches from students’ faces, seemingly to force a reaction to escalate the situation. When students engaged peacefully, such as by asking him pointed questions, he mocked them. (Two examples: one student prefaced a question by sharing that it was a personal question to her, as a survivor of sexual assault, to which Judge Duncan told her “nice story”, and moved on. Another student asked about another one of his decisions that also impacted minority rights and, rather than respond to the question, Judge Duncan told them to read his judicial opinion and moved on.) He called students “appalling idiots”, among other names. Meanwhile, trucks paid for by some unidentified groups have been circulating around campus with students’ names and alleged quotes from the event printed on the side. These trucks were even driven outside the homes of parents of four separate students. Not to mention the threats they’ve been getting. Many many students engaged much more civilly with Judge Duncan than he engaged with them. And yet they’re the ones being targeted.”

(Me: Yeah, I’d like to hear a lot more reporting on that aspect, if it was as described here. I believe doxxing is illegal in California and threatening certainly is.)

Quote 2: “In 1969 I was a student at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Members of the American Nazi Party were allowed to visit the school and present their point of view that the Holocaust had not happened. The event was held after school in the cafeteria, and expectations for students who chose to attend were made absolutely clear to us by the principal. We were to be respectful at all times; we were not to interrupt the speakers; anything we had to say could be said in the Q & A afterwards. Those of us who attended prepared ourselves extremely well and did as we had been directed. During the presentation we took notes, sat on our hands, kept our mouths shut, and did not interrupt the speakers in any way. Then afterwards in the Q & A we absolutely shredded them. When they left, they knew they had been soundly trounced by a bunch of high school history geeks. It was a very valuable experience to me, and a lesson that ideas, no matter how vile, should be argued, defended, and defeated in public.”

Now: just imagine if those Stanford students had kept their silence and instead simply recorded what Duncan did and how he treated them and had waited for the Q&A afterward to speak up. Who then would be being excoriated nationwide?

He wouldn’t have been able to twist a thing.

What on earth were they afraid of
Saturday April 08th 2023, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

His migraine. So I ran off to Safeway to try to buy a leg of lamb for Easter, but there wasn’t much to be found but flapping tags and empty shelves. So I did what I could and yes that ham was, um, cute. Definitely for people who don’t like leftovers.

But he wanted it to be what he wanted it to be more than I’d realized, and after a few hours of psyching himself up and a quick toasted cheese sandwich each to keep us from shopping hungry we found ourselves heading for Costco quarter after 5. They close at 6 Saturdays, normally; today, turns out, they made it 7. Because customers.

Going to Costco on a Saturday is never my thing and going right before Easter Sunday was really not my thing and I simply wasn’t going to, but if he was that determined even while feeling like that then of course I would go with him.

And he found one!

A few goodies in the cart, a few practical items, and then I headed for the lines while he went looking for one last thing.

It felt odd. Most of the lines were now self-checkout, but a number of people were like me and wouldn’t use those. And yet…

Well if they’re not going to get in this one I certainly am, look how fast that woman is scanning things and her bagger is tag-teaming with her to speed it up. They’ve got this down! Wow, I’m going to look for them next time.

And yet.

Even though it kept becoming the shorter line, people were coming up, and in an echo of what I’d seen on approaching that I hadn’t quite put my finger on, were starting to turn in behind me and then abruptly pulling away into the other lines that were quite a bit longer, and at one point there were five people waiting there and there that I could see while my stuff was going onto the conveyer as they rang up the guy in front of me, and still nobody was getting behind me. And now another person coming up started to, took a look, and moved into one of the longer lines, too.

The clerk was an older heavier black woman. The young bagger was mixed race and part black.

And the people who turned away out of her line after they saw her, every single one of them was Asian.

This is not to stereotype. This is to report what I saw. Note that the guy in front of me was Asian. But it took me straight back to the college American history class where the professor said that one of the things about immigration to the US over the centuries is that unless they were black, every newcomer had someone they could punch down at and wrongly think they were better than. (Edited in the morning to add by way of explanation, 64% of the local Asian population are immigrants, and by their accents at least some of these were.)

Finally, a Hispanic man turned in behind me, quite happy to somehow snag the short line on such a day.

She was checking me out now. I had to do something. I made a point of looking her in the eyes and saying, “You are amazing. You are so fast. Thank you!”

I saw in that moment that she’d been keeping it all in check but at those kind words and the noticing implied behind them, she suddenly nearly burst into tears and she thanked me, the  bagger thanked me, too. We could have given each other a hug on the spot if the counter hadn’t been in the way.

I left wishing them a happy Easter and meant it as fervently as I ever have (even while thinking, I should have said and Passover and Ramadan, too, since they all come together this year and you never know.) They both wished me one as well, and clearly meant it, too. I felt befriended.

I know I’m choir-preaching here, but, man, just go love one another. What else matters? I wanted to tell those people who made their bigotry visible how much they were missing out on because that is one gracious, lovely woman there who was trying her best to give them a better day in the one way given her to do so, and the young man, too.

I am so glad we went to that store when we went to that store near the end of her day. Richard had no way to know that’s the real reason he so strongly felt we had to go there.

And that going at the last minute was the only time to go.

Between a rock and a wet place
Monday March 13th 2023, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life

The phone rang at dinnertime.

It was a reverse-911 call from the county warning of the incoming storm and pleading for residents to stay home and stay put if you’re not in an evacuation zone. And don’t drive through water in the roadway!

We are staying home and staying put. It’s supposed to start pouring any minute, strong winds, the works, and then another atmospheric river is expected next week. You know the “Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry” line? The levy wishes. They are dropping boulders from helicopters at this point to be able to reach it.

And yet all was quiet here so far. So I took a moment to photograph the biggest Anya seedling: I love its formation, it’s such an elegant little bundle of hope, and its leaves have really grown. It just makes me so happy.

There was enough air movement to twirl its skirts a little.

The flowering pear is at that glorious moment of full bloom mixed with the incoming leaves; it had waited all winter for this.

The start of the storm keeps being pushed back–11:00 pm, they think now. Edit, nope, 1:00 am.

That pear tree was a staked newly planted whip when we moved here. Hey, little apricot? You’ve got this.

Petal power
Sunday March 12th 2023, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Politics

One of the companies affected by the bank failure: Etsy. 95 million buyers, 7.5 million sellers, per the Washington Post. The Feds have declared that tomorrow all depositors are to have access to their funds after all, at no cost to taxpayers. Such a relief.

And to change the subject: the one peach that needs a pollinator is going to do just fine this year, rain willing. I love how similar and yet how different the flowers are. The Indian Free, with the darker pink interior, produces peaches with a dark red center.’s silk ribbon leaped onto my needles.

I don’t know how this is going to go (understatement alert)
Saturday March 11th 2023, 10:48 pm
Filed under: History

The abrupt Silicon Valley Bank collapse: the accounts that vanished in the last few days were the ones that smaller-to-middle-sized companies simply doing normal business rely on to make payroll.

If the early reports and gossip are true, the richest investors triggered the run via insider information. They bailed themselves.

California law does not allow businesses to not pay workers on time, not anticipating situations where they’re scrambling to get at their own funds in their own bank accounts so they can do so. Legally right now, they could tank as fast as that bank.

This isn’t about bailing out the rich, it’s about rescuing those of us at the worker level who rely on that next paycheck, whose employer was perfectly solvent, successful, and had fully expected to continue from day to day.

Note that a few decades ago, Chrysler repaid the Feds in full and early. Different business but still a useful precedent.

Edited 3/12 to add: one of the companies that had its money in that bank? Etsy.

And that is why
Thursday February 23rd 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

(In real life, those lilacs at the top are as bright as a spring morning.)

I have mentioned the woman who sold me two beautiful gerdans in November–whose shop then disappeared from Etsy and there was no way to send her a message to make sure she was okay. Of all the people in Ukraine that I’d interacted with and had tried to do my part to help support, she was the one I was most worried about.

I had bought the second one because I loved it, but also to keep the conversation going. And suddenly all I was getting was Etsy’s notification that this shop was no longer listed.

I googled the name of it in case it might appear on some other platform. No luck. I only had her first name. It hit hard, to a degree that surprised me–and yet didn’t at all.

I have grieved that lost connection. I have wanted to know that she was as alright as possible.

Two days ago, the thought struck me: yes Etsy wouldn’t let me send a message to her shop–but what about responding to months-old previous messages? Were they still there? And if so, why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I felt a combination of, I have to at least try, and a sudden and unreasonable hope.

They were still there! She got it! She answered!

It meant the world to her that it meant so much to me to finally find her again, that it matters how she and her family are doing. The world. It cares. About them.

She told me the way to find and follow her now. Oh my goodness, there was a year old picture of her showing off her latest design and saying how proud she was of it, that she thought it was her prettiest ever–and it was sitting in a box across the room from me as I read that because I had also thought it was the prettiest ever, I had not found anything quite like it from anyone else and it’s what got me to ever pay attention to anything about her in the first place.

But also on her page was a video of a large apartment building collapsed by missiles with fire raging across the bottom, with her cri de couer: “There are people under there!”

And here I suddenly showed up telling her how hard I’d tried to find her and that I’d been praying fervently for her safety and so grateful to find her again. Unspoken was the word, alive.

That is when I realized why I not only have been buying but wearing these hand-beaded pictorial necklaces from Ukraine: each one connects me to the person who made it.

But also, I feel as if in some small and thoroughly irrational way I am somehow helping to protect that person from the terrors and the harm by keeping them right there close to my heart throughout my quiet, peaceful day.

In plane sight
Friday February 03rd 2023, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Got a Hey look at this offer! from Southwest Airline. Which reminded me.

At the niece’s second wedding reception, my husband the computer scientist was talking to his cousin the pilot.

Who had been stuck in the Christmas meltdown. But who had managed to get through such that he flew the plane that got Richard’s sister (and himself) to the actual wedding, and he was pretty happy about that: he got a planeload of people to where they were fairly desperate at that point to go.

He said, The thing people don’t get is that Southwest allows its crews to live wherever they want. They have a great deal of autonomy because in each city they’re assigned out of, there’s central management to report to who take requests and adjust personal schedules and smooth things and make people happy. There are unwritten rules that everybody understands and abides by, and you have this authority centralized to where you live and by people you get to know like a big happy family.

And that’s usually good, he said–but when it was bad it totally melted down, and we on the inside could see this coming and tried to warn them.

Hubby the software guy said, But if you do it that way then you can’t update because you can’t write software that manages operations better without having the rules being written down. Which means adhered to. Which means giving up power: everything across the system would become centralized to the system.

Computers have no human empathy component. Things would have to be Done A Certain Way to make the automated system work–which means a lot of those managers would become completely unnecessary and lose their jobs. And the crews and the pilots would lose a whole lot of autonomy (not to mention their friends they’ve worked with forever.) You just go where/when you’re assigned.

I thought, There’s got to be some degree of middle ground.

So it’ll be interesting to see what the FAA does as it plays grown-up to the various sides here.

Musical interlude
Friday January 27th 2023, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,History

So I did, I had some of those kale gnocchi cubes for lunch, and they were okay enough.

Meantime, I have heard for decades descriptions of Yoko Ono’s screeching. I always thought that was just a put-down of her singing. I had no idea. My stars. (Chuck Berry’s face!)

Which leads to, as YouTube does, John Lennon and Chuck Berry doing Johnny B. Goode and decades after that, Berry reprising it with Julian Lennon and telling him how proud he was of him and that he was going to tell his dad when he sees him. Wow.