Poll: cat
Sunday August 27th 2023, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Life

Cats run.

Skunks amble amiably. Never seen one scared, and I think they rarely would be, so I dunno.

I was coming around the corner of the house this evening to turn on the hose when a streak of black and white raced away while I tried to figure out what I’d just seen: there are no cats that live in that direction, and if there were, it would know a dog lives in the yard it just ran towards. A big dog with opinions and a voice. They do not have a cat.

There was no bark. It must have been inside.

Even if none of the immediate neighbors has one, I’m going to have to still guess that was someone’s cat with the back paws slightly crossing mid-leap away.

Okay, typed that, thought, well, c’mon, let’s find out then, and found a video of a skunk running.

Even in that heartbeat of a glimpse the tail of the thing I saw wasn’t that poofy. So there you go. Not a pole cat.

I wonder how many people have told the owner their pet looks like a skunk.

North and west of there
Sunday August 20th 2023, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Life

No hurricane here.

Nope, not on this side, either. Nor did we feel the 5.1 quake; that was way south of us, too.

We did get a pretty sunset out of the deal.

Alright, back to barn raising for me.

Support’em while you’ve got’em
Saturday August 19th 2023, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Andy’s Orchard.

The stone fruits were so delayed this year that I’ve learned I have to call ahead to see what they have; it was a long drive that one time for six peaches.

Today, for the first time all season, yes, I could come pick up a full box of Kit Donnells. Alright!

Trying not to be greedy but thinking of friends who know what those are, I asked after I got there if I could actually have two?

The clerk misheard me. He cheerfully brought out three, and all the sudden everybody on my list was going to be happy. Cool! The best week of the best peach!

As I passed the “New Homes Late 2023” sign alongside Andy’s farm, I thought for the millionth time, Hang in there, Andy, hang in there–we need you.

Will you look at that
Thursday August 17th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Life

I did a double take: but those don’t exist yet! Right? Do they make prototypes that actually, y’know, go out on the road? Rather than just sitting there looking pretty (and immobile) in some showroom somewhere where they want to show it off?

I had to go home and search till I found one to be sure whose it was, and I found no pictures of a Tesla Cybertruck that had it painted in military camouflage colors. But that’s what it was. Not far from Google’s self-driving-vehicle headquarters. Do I detect a taunt?

It looked like nobody taller than a toddler in a carseat could possibly sit behind the driver of that thing. Elon will have to take a backseat.

Oh so that was why
Friday August 11th 2023, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I was going to go back there with him but when they called his name somehow I just didn’t. We had already discussed it and found neither of us particularly cared if I did or didn’t and I was in the middle of a row of a merino-silk that likes to drop and run like crazy. Eh. Have fun.

He came back from triage moments later and said, The nurse glared at me.

I finished row after row more, there were quite a few people in Urgent Care this afternoon, the wait was long, and then with my hands needing a break I finally opened the book I’d grabbed as backup when he had suddenly decided he needed to go in.

Whoever it was that recommended “The Fabric of Civilization: how textiles made the world,” by Virginia Postrel, thank you thank you thank you. Archaeology to history to genetics and written compellingly interestingly. I am learning so much.

They called him to the exam room and again I found myself staying where I was, while wondering why.

There was a young woman who was doing the same thing waiting for her friend; my guess is they were college roommates.

She worked up the courage and finally complimented me on my necklace. It was a sunflower gerdan from (are you surprised) Ukraine.

She was very happy at finding out where she could order one from and it was clear it was going to be very meaningful to her to do so. I adored her on the spot.

We chatted. She described herself as a writer. I told her I was one, too. Her: Cool! She started telling me about the fantasy fiction she likes to write.

She’d been watching me knit lace, and I told her I wrote a lace shawls book–but with a story to each. What inspired it, who it was for, with the point being to bless others with what we can do.

The most important one, I told her, was the story of right after 9/11: Joan Baez and her niece came to city hall for a multi-faith gathering; her niece sang. Speeches were made.

And at the end, they asked everybody to take the hands of those around them for a moment of silence. And then as they so felt moved, to speak into that silence.

A few words here and there as strangers held hands with their fellow man. Finally, one man said decisively, May America always be like this.

Amen, the crowd murmured, and with that we let each other go.

I told her, I made a circular shawl in remembrance: it looked like a paper cut-out of people holding hands.

And I told her she would make it with her writing. Her books would be published.

Because I knew in that moment that if a stranger who had actually been published believed in her, she could believe in her, and if she could believe in her she could do it.

Richard reappeared a few minutes later, and as we got in the car to leave I asked him at last, Why did the triage nurse glare at you?

Oh. She told me I should have come in much sooner. If the antibiotics don’t heal that wound right up to get right back in there.

Will do.

And then I told him about the up and coming writer. I wished I’d gotten her name so I could buy the first copy.

185 degree angle
Wednesday August 09th 2023, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Life,LYS

Yesterday, running an errand, I saw a very nice black car and suddenly found myself humming Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” that spoofs the rocker life. (Live version, slightly ad-libbed.)

And then the guy passed me just as I was humming, “My Maserati does 185, they took my license, now I don’t drive” –and it was! He was driving a Maserati!

I had to go home and look up the rest of the long-forgotten lyrics. Richard and I had a chuckle over the whole thing at dinnertime. And so the ear worm carried over into today, as they do.

If I had pulled out my planned red yarn any time in the last few weeks and held it against that green expanse of afghan, I would have realized how it turned pink against it and needed to be replaced before Kathryn left town, because she carries everything. But I didn’t, and so now I was going to Fillory Yarns (where they had just the right thing but not enough of it) and Uncommon Threads to see if I could fill the gap.

There’s this weird intersection that should have its own light where you have to turn a diagonal left to get onto the main road. GPS relentlessly tells you to turn a full left onto what is actually a long cul-de-sac and then come back out so that you’re pointing straight across to turn left rather than being at an angle they disapprove of. It’s wrong. You just ignore it.

In front of me at the stop was what had to be that same black Maserati, ready to do that funky diagonal turn.

And this time I pulled up behind him as I was actually already singing his song, and once again, that very line. Windows up, no worries.

He suddenly started up his car and escaped into the cul-de-sac while I just howled: I wasn’t THAT bad, dude!

(Red yarn: now on order. Colourmart. Cashmere. They checked the shade. That look like classic red barn to you? It does to me. Here’s hoping–and more waiting.)

Monday August 07th 2023, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I honked at some stupid driver doing some stupid distracted thing: didn’t they know that someone could get killed?!

Alison, I thought at myself. Cool it. It’s not their fault.

Got into Trader Joe’s for the errand I didn’t feel like running but at least at a time of day I thought wouldn’t be crowded.

It was, and the lines were notable.

And yet–the clerk who motioned me over when hers cleared out before the one next to her, whoever she was, acted like she’d been waiting all day to see me. Just the sweetest.

Just debating saying anything almost brought me to tears, and yet I wanted to convey how much that simple gift meant. How important it was.

At the last, as she handed me my receipt and asked if I needed any help out with that, I told her, Thank you. Thank you for the smile. I needed that, I needed to get out of my house and out of my head a minute.

My cousin’s husband was hit by a semi today.

If there hadn’t been a counter between us she would have thrown her arms around me on the spot.

I didn’t say, and he was on a motorcycle.

And the semi was pulling onto the road, distracted.

I’ve said quite a few prayers today for that driver, who has to live with that. I can’t imagine….

Hymn and hers
Sunday August 06th 2023, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

How soon it fades.

We were literally about one minute from walking out the door for church when my email pinged. I took a glance; what if someone needed a ride, right?

It was a, we know you’re all probably already on your way but please call those on your list and do not come! An accident just happened, the street is closed down, we have to leave room open for the first responders without all those cars arriving in the wrong block at the wrong moment and for the utility people too because the power pole got taken out and it’s not safe to hold church in the dark.

(Can you just picture the toddlers shrieking and giggling and scrambling away under someone else’s pew. It could be the greatest game ever of Catch Me If You Can.)

Well someone out there was having a truly bad day. They did find a way, though, to get a whole lot of people to pray for them without even being asked. I can only hope they turn out okay.

Another message, later in the morning: Power’s still out but the other ward (we share the building) has invited us to come meet on the lawn with them at noon. Mostly shade.

I’ve seen that shade. The sun, it moves right at you that time of day. No mic, no Zoom for captions, crowded.

He went, but for me there was no point and no doubt certain harm in the idea. Lupus, it doesn’t negotiate.

Just home.

Nobody around.

Nobody to catch up on the week with, no babies to get giggling, no shared community to start off the coming week with, just isolation. So I baked some pumpkin muffins. If I’d had sourdough starter at the ready (there’s some in the freezer somewhere) I probably would have made a batch of that, too; it’s been awhile since I’d even thought of it and I miss it.

It was like this every single day and every single week for all that time before the vaccines started to arrive? And we got through that? It surprised me that it surprised me that much.

Sometimes one remembers just how blessedly wonderful normal life is.

I can only pray that someone out there (I picture their car as a black Mustang, no good reason, I just do) gets to go back to theirs, too.

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.

Thursday August 03rd 2023, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

We were out. Do you want peaches? I asked him.

Yes, (as in, Always, knowing where they would be coming from.) I looked at the clock–yeah, I had time to go, if I hurried. Traffic…

Off the freeway at last, glad I hadn’t been even five minutes later in that growing backup, past the construction zone, pulled into Andy’s.

And it was a whole different world. Rows and rows of trees, the mountainside looking east and the coastal range over yonder to the west, Andy’s flowers blooming around the small gravel parking lot, that familiar wooden building with the overhang.

Next to which there is a single parking space right against the patio. One step out of the driver’s seat and you’re out of the sun, half a dozen more shaded steps and you’re inside. My lupus approves.

Only, for the first time, someone else was in that spot.

The man was I’d say probably late 70s or maybe more.

The one in his hand didn’t even make it into his car: he stood outside the driver’s side taking one appreciative bite, then another. Kind of shook off the juice running down his arm there a minute trying not to be too messy about it and then tried to head it off at the pass by taking the next bite from under the bottom of it in a pose almost like a kid at a drinking fountain. And another. (While I was going in with my previous boxes, finding out they don’t reuse them anymore, taking them back to my car and heading inside again.)

The moment demanded to be shared in solidarity, and I found myself calling over to him, Good peach, eh?

He held up the little that was left towards the sky with the biggest smile on his face and pronounced with feeling, “There is nothing fiiiner than a perfect peach.” His eyes swept around the scene, the farm, the flowers, the mountains, the fruit. It had made his summer, right there on that spot, and he was clearly glad for me that I was heading in to go get some for my loved ones and me, too.

I told him about the treks to pick Lorings in West Virginia coming from DC in my childhood, and how I found Andy by searching for them. He was glad I’d found where to go; he loved Lorings. He loved this place.

All was right in his world, and now it was in mine, too.

A half-step of Ostrich Plumes
Tuesday August 01st 2023, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

(Picture: wet and blocking in bright direct sunlight.)

Started this merino/silk laceweight in April, then the afghan project took over. It’s not abandoned, it’s bedside: I often, but not always, knit one row on it before calling it a night. Gradually that adds up even though it feels like it couldn’t possibly.

I took it with me to a routine doctor appointment today after a brief inner moment of should I take the afghan, vs are you out of your freaking mind, honey?

That good doctor talks to her patients and she listens to her patients and so she tends to be a bit behind and you know I know how to be glad of that extra time.

And as I worked I thought, Y’know? Feather and Fan? It’s the Chopsticks on the piano of lace knitting. Cliched, repetitive, tiresome, unimaginative, All That Lace Ever Is to the utter novice (meaning, once upon a time specifically me) –and yet. Hey, listen to those little kids play. Look at how that hand dyeing needed that particular pattern applied to it, it just did, no other one could have created an effect that matched the dye work like that. Anything else would just have chopped it all up. Rainbows are supposed to come arch shaped.

(Laying flat, it’s 67″. Maybe a few more. But it will stretch of its own weight when I pick it up after it dries, the silk in it will do that, so I’ll have to try it out first.)

Oh and? Thyroid, blood tests, blahblahblah but the thing I really wanted to know? While half-apologizing for wasting her time over what might not even exist?

When I took that hard fall in the garden May last year that knocked my teeth lose and my nose is still faintly red–she said I’m right, it did: the bone at the front of my chest where I bounced off of has piled on more bone there.

My body is trying to wrap me in bubble wrap. But it’s okay, we’re good.

Okay, so, what’s the next big carry-around project?

Deliver us
Friday July 28th 2023, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Life

I was going to toss something in the recycling but first needed to get that last bit of plastic wrap off the top of it. I thought it would be quickly done, as I stood out there by the bin next to the open gate, but it was being remarkably stubborn.

I looked up at seeing someone new coming down the walkway. I smiled a hello.

His face was–wary, is the only word for it. “I’ve got a package,” the UPS man in the UPS uniform with his UPS truck parked in front of the house announced abruptly.

I thought, well, yeah, duh, that’s what you… I mean…  What I said out loud was, “Thank you!” with a smile in hopes of helping his day go better.

Afterwards, the more it sank in the harder it hurt. This very tall, very dark-skinned Black man was simply doing his job but felt he had to preemptively announce to the 5’5″ older white woman in that now-fiercely-expensive Silicon Valley neighborhood (I mean, when we moved here, the couple around the corner were a firefighter married to a hairdresser, just try to buy their post-WWII tract house now, we sure couldn’t) that that’s what he was doing.

I know tensions must be high at work with the strike so narrowly averted and with feelings strong.

But man.

Sometimes what that means is that other tensions you normally squash away can come bubbling up at unexpected moments. Like being afraid of how someone will react to your walking up to their house in complete innocence bringing something they themselves ordered.

I wanted to run after him and hug all better the little boy he once was.

I’m going to put a hand knit hat by the door in hopes of seeing him next time. I can’t mend everything in the world, but I can knit.

Take it to the bank. (Fast.)
Tuesday July 25th 2023, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Quite some time ago, when it was still notable to see a Tesla S sedan in the wild even here in Silicon Valley, fair promises were being made about their producing an affordable electric car for the masses soon.

We were suckers, but willing suckers, we said to each other as we put our thousand dollars down: we wanted to help keep the fledgling company in business long enough for that model 3 to come out. We wanted to make a statement. We wanted the car companies to know that we the buying public wanted the industry to turn electric enough that we were willing to risk a chunk of change to make that statement on behalf of our grandchildren’s future.

We were #134,000-something on the waiting list. We wanted that car.

Assuming, of course, that the resident 6’8″er could get into it. This is the man who over time cracked the dashboard of our first-year Prius (2001, the ones that looked like a pregnant mouse) with his crammed-in knees so we traded it in when they came out with a bigger model. The 2007 we’re still driving.

Fast forward.

We just got an envelope in the mail, and my first thought was, How did Tesla get marketing info on us?

Go ahead and open it, he said when I tried to offer it to him, because after all, like sexist businessmen everywhere do, the company had addressed it only to him.

Inside was a check.

Elon Musk isn’t letting us divorce his business tactics from our household, he did it first. With no letter nor communication (only because I’d long since lost that paperwork supposedly so carefully filed), nothing other than the passing of time that it took for them to do it, we got our thousand dollars back.

And there are plenty of other companies making electric cars now. We got the future we put in that reservation for.

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.