Tuesday, October 27, 2020


 I'm taking a bit of a break and hope to be back soon (ish) (as soon as I resolve my computer issues)!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Earlier this week I was reading an article about monarch caterpillars and wondered if I could find any interesting poems about them. While this one is not specifically about monarchs, I like the evocative language along with all the valuable advice offered.  

Advice from a Caterpillar
Amy Gerstler

Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.
Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
bristles. Don't get sentimental
about your discarded skins. Grow
quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
on your antennae. Sequester poisons
in your body for use at a later date.
When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

Gerstler, Amy. "Advice from a Caterpillar." Dearest Creature, Penguin Books, 2009. 

You can read more about the poet here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, molting, resting, self-reinvention, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with some making of a slightly different sort for me.

I have my mother's old console Singer sewing machine and it sits on a landing at the top of the stairs. I see it multiple times each day, and it has had mask-making supplies piled on top for weeks. I finally decided to stop feeling guilty every time I pass by and just sew them.

I thought I had cut out at least 12 masks along with the lining fabric, but I hit a small snag when I realized that I had only thought about cutting out the lining (kind of like imaginary knitting).

I didn't want to lose momentum, so I quickly cut out a bunch of lining pieces. Nylon has worked well for me in previous masks, but I had used up all my old half slips. I decided I probably wasn't going to wear the slip I used with my wedding dress ever again, so it got repurposed.

And after an afternoon of sewing, (some ripping), and pressing, I had masks! I sewed six of them, but I took pictures of these when I was packing them up to send to Ryan.

I'll be wearing my own new favorite mask when I go to the post office tomorrow. You can't see it, but this mask makes me smile!

I finished a wonderful book last week, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey. If you are interested in World War I, historical fiction, homing pigeons, or just a really well-told story, I highly recommend this book. I'm also reading Real Life, The Women of Brewster Place, and Keep Moving, but I'm still in the midst of a book hangover from Cher Ami, so I haven't made much progress with any of them. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Worry over the Weekend ...

 ... and beyond. I've written about the Cameron Peak Fire before but it exploded again last Wednesday when wind gusts approaching 70 mph pushed the fire 15 miles east and closer to Fort Collins. Strong winds persisted throughout most of the weekend and will continue into next week, keeping the fire near-critical for the period. The last time I wrote about the fire 103,000 acres were burning; it's currently 203,000 acres and growing. It is now the largest wildfire in CO history, and this weekend two new wildfires ignited near Boulder in addition to the hundreds burning throughout the west. 

My worries and concerns are for Ryan, and also the thousands of firefighters and all of the people who have been evacuated, many who don't yet know if they will have a home to return to or when this destructive wildfire season will be over. We all know how difficult it is to live with the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the uncertainty of knowing what will happen on a day to day basis with wildfires only adds to the apprehension and anguish. 

I was at home in NJ this weekend, doing mundane things like laundry, vacuuming, making calzones, reading, and knitting, but my heart, mind, and thoughts were with Ryan and all of those suffering in the west. I sincerely hope we elect a new president on November 3, one that knows that climate change is real, is guided by science, and willing to take action, not simply suggest that we sweep up dead leaves

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

I have been so taken with Barbara Kingsolver's second volume of poetry, How to Fly, that I ordered her first book of poems, Another America/Otra America. Published in 1998, Kingsolver has written poems about war, parenting, personal/national trauma, man's inhumanity to man, abuse, family and human rights, and social justice. Additionally, the poems are published in English on the right-hand page, and in Spanish on the left-hand page. 

These poems are powerful, disturbing, and haunting, and the fact that they are accessible in both Spanish and English makes them even more so. 

Ordinary Miracle
Barbara Kingsolver

I have mourned lost days
when I accomplished nothing of importance.
But not lately.

Lately, under the lunar tide
of a woman's ocean, I work
my own sea-change:
turning grains of sand to human eyes.
I daydream after breakfast
while the spirit of egg and toast
knits together a length of bone
as fine as wheatstalk.
Later, as I postpone weeding the garden
I will make two hands
that may tend a hundred gardens.

I need ten full moons exactly
for keeping the annual promise.
I offer myself up: unsaintly, up
transmuted anyway
by the most ordinary miracle.
I am nothing in this world beyond the things
one woman does.
But there are eyes that once were pearls.
And here is a second chance where there was none.

Kingsolver, Barbara. "Ordinary Miracle." Another America/Otra America, Seal Press, 1998. 
You can read more about the author here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, ordinary miracles, the ability to recognize them, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday with some progress on the current Hitchhiker, some new(ish) yarn, and some new books.

I continue to be enthralled by unraveling the Wollmeisen roll, feeling the crinkly texture of the yarn, reknitting it, and watching the gradient emerge. I am of two minds with this project: I could happily knit on this for a long time, and I would also like to see it done, blocked, and ready to wear so I can move on to something else. It will probably end up somewhere in between.

In the moving on to something else department, Ryan gifted me with this yarn for Christmas last year. He's asked about it several times, and when he mentioned it for the third time on Monday, I decided it was time to at least wind it and be ready to cast on. I've been carrying it back and forth between NJ and MD for several weeks, so I sat down for a pleasurable hand-winding experience. What will I cast on? I'm not sure, but I can't help but wonder what it would look like knit into a Hitchhiker.

I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (wonderful and the perfect book to read during Covid times) and Monogamy (a good exploration of marriage with some nice domestic details). My inability to fall back to sleep early Monday morning turned out to be serendipitous and led to my favorite book this week, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney. I ended up perusing my hometown library website at 3:00 am, and after I read the description of this book, I was so curious that I had to download it. I just couldn't ignore WWI historical fiction based on real events and characters, one of which is a homing pigeon that narrates every other chapter. It may sound odd, but I'm finding it remarkable and the book will most likely be among my favorites this year. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Women of Brewster Place

Last week Kym told you a bit about our next Read With Us book, The Women of Brewster Place, and next week is Carole's turn. That means it's my turn this week. 

Gloria Naylor was an African-American novelist who won the National Book Award for first fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. I have often found that I enjoy and understand a book more if I know something about the author and her circumstances. The author's parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi but moved to Harlem to escape the segregated south. Naylor's mother didn't have much education but loved to read, and encouraged her daughter to do the same. 

“Realizing that I was a painfully shy child, she gave me my first diary and told me to write my feelings down in there,” Naylor said in her National Book Award acceptance speech. “Over the years that diary was followed by reams and reams of paper that eventually culminated into ‘The Women of Brewster Place.’ And I wrote that book as a tribute to her and other black women who, in spite of the very limited personal circumstances, somehow manage to hold a fierce belief in the limitless possibilities of the human spirit.”

The assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 changed Naylor's educational plans. She postponed college and became a missionary for the Jehovah's Witnesses in New York, North Carolina, and Florida. She left seven years later because "things weren't getting better, but worse."

At Brooklyn College, Naylor made a big promise to herself — to write at least four novels and at least one that would outlast her. Her fiction often revolved around a common place, like Brewster Place or the diner in Bailey’s Cafe. Some of her characters also tended to be dreamers which reflected Naylor’s love of fairy tales.

“It runs throughout my work, the theme of dreaming,” she told The Associated Press in 1992. “I ask myself why it always seems important. I am a daydreamer and I once was an avid daydreamer. I would dream in serials, the daydreams would start where the others left off.”

"I was still reading (fairy tales) ... at age 16. You wanted Prince Charming and I looked too long. At some point, an adult woman has to wake up and smell the coffee.”
I hope you'll also figuratively wake up, smell the coffee, and read The Women of Brewster Place with us. We'll be hosting the book discussion on our blogs on November 10th, so you've got plenty of time (and I know quite a few of you have already read the book)!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Note to Self

I drive past this church and their sign quite often when I am in NJ. They change the saying weekly, and I often react by questioning, overthinking, and disagreeing with what the "person in charge of sign sayings" has chosen. But I am taking note of this one, heeding it, and putting it into practice.

I hope your week has plenty of opportunities to try, try again, and keep moving. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Ryan celebrated (in a socially distant way) his 30th birthday yesterday. I visited him for his birthday last year, and then returned a few weeks later to help him replace the car that he totaled in a scary accident. But I haven't seen him in person for almost a year, and miss him terribly, just like so many people are missing their loved ones. All of this is to explain the poem I'm sharing this week, another one from Barbara Kingsolver. 

How to Have a Child
Barbara Kingsolver

Begin on the day you decide
you are fit
to carry on.
Begin with a quailing heart
for here you stand
on the fault line.
Begin if you can at the beginning.
Begin with your mother, 
with her grandfather,
the ones before him.
Think of their hands, all of them:
firm on the plow, the cradle,
the rifle butt, the razor strop;
trembling on the telegram,
the cheek of a lover,
the fact of a door.
Everything that can wreck a life
has been done before,
done to you, even. That's all
inside you now.
Half of it you won't think of.
The rest you wouldn't dream of.
Go on. 

Kingsolver, Barbara. "How to Have a Child." How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons, Harper, 2020. 
You can read more about the author here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, a clear heart, the strength to begin and go on, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday with a Hitchhiker that is pure comfort knitting. Now that I've received my new needle (and a spare) I can just keep knitting, finding calm along the way, and ignoring the news.

Way back when I started this last summer, Margene said it looked like it had the colors of a stormy night to the bright light of dawn, so that is now the official poetic name of the project.

I've been knitting more than reading, so I haven't finished any books this week. I am still listening to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and have also started Monogamy and Real Life. I hope I can finish a couple of them before next week.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

So Far, So Good

In NJ we can track our mail-in ballots. I wonder if this is available in other states? Anyway, I decided to check the website and see what it said. So far, so good. 

My ballot has been received by the County Board of Elections. I did chuckle about the received date; I mailed it at the post office on September 18 where I watched the clerk put it directly into the Board of Elections box. The received date is four days later on September 22, but the Board of Elections is only about 50 steps away from the post office. But a ballot status of received is a good thing no matter when it happened. 

In August, the governor of NJ issued an executive order stating that mail-in ballots can begin to be counted 10 days before Election Day, so I will check again later in October or early November looking for a ballot status of accepted. Ballots have to be received in NJ by November 10th, so I'm already trying to curb my anticipation and practice patience in waiting for the all-important results. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Always Carry a Spare

Yesterday I was happily knitting away on my most recent Hitchhiker during our travels down to MD. This helps me to focus on something besides the traffic whizzing past us at 85 mph while John is also driving too fast, but about halfway through the trip, something felt funny. Upon closer investigation I discovered that this had happened:

Somehow the coated stainless steel cable broke and just snapped at the needle junction. I was beside myself because the only extra needles I have in MD are size 8 and I did not want to knit dishcloths all week. The only yarn store less than an hour away is not open on Sunday and John was using the car on Monday. I knew The Loopy Ewe could ship me a needle on Monday, but given the speed of the USPS, it probably wouldn't arrive until next week. Oh, what a tragedy! But then I remembered Amazon. Before I even unpacked, I checked size 3 Chiaogoo needles, ordered them, and will hopefully have them in my hands sometime today.

The stitches are back on the broken needle and all is well (or it will be when I receive my needles). I had one circular in the cart but added another while I was checking out because I have learned my lesson — always carry a spare. Now I'm going to take my tea and sit out on the front porch to wait for the Amazon driver. :-) 


They're here already (at 8:30 am)! My week is off to a pretty good start and I hope yours is, too!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

It would have been my mother's 86th birthday last week so I've been thinking about her more than usual. She died when she was 67, and it felt like this poem was written for her (and me with its countless oddly similar details). It's more like a story a typical poem, it is very long, and I considered not sharing it but no other poem felt right once I read this one by Barbara Kingsolver. (My apologies in advance.)

My Mother's Last Forty Minutes
Barbara Kingsolver

At three in the afternoon we heard the death rattle,
sound of a throat that can't clear itself anymore.
This was the cue for another drop of morphine, or not,
according to a nurse's advice my sister and I tried to
reconstruct, as earnestly as we used to kneel together
to build our fairy houses of tree bark and moss. We'd
slept almost not at all for a week, and between us now
constructed no clear game plan on the morphine.

Really, death rattle was all I kept thinking. As if
the den of this ranch house smelling of sickroom
and dust, with its flotsam of Kleenex boxes,
its rented hospital bed and oxygen machine, its frugal 
postwar windows and chronic gloom, had received 
a surprise visitor and it was Charles Dickens.

     May I say that life is filled with instructions
we just don't believe we are ever going to need?

My father announced he had checks to deposit, so 
was going to the bank. My sister and I locked eyes,
the old familiar rope of the drowning child. She
suggested to him that he might regret his timing.
I followed him outside. This is my family job, to say
the ungentle thing. Taking it for the team. I yelled
at him briefly. Then apologized. We were none of us
quite in our minds and anyway, who was I to judge?

As far as I knew he hadn't spent a night or a day
away from my mother in something like half
a century, while I was off living my own merry life,
had merely put it on hold for a couple of weeks
to come and help out with the dying-at-home-
with-no-hired-help request.

     Again, I'll step out
of that room to warn the unwitting: it's a big ask.

My father came back inside. The three of us
sat in chairs arranged like planets around our sun.
She hadn't spoken in days, or opened her eyes,
yet her gravity held us. Though not completely.
I'd noticed Dad now shifting his gaze, staring in 
love and wonder at the 12 x 14 portrait of my mother
gorgeously veiled as a twenty-year-old bride, which 
he's set on the mantle to pretty up this departure.

The rain picked up. This storm was something else,
some wild stampede on the roof of my childhood
home. But she seemed shipshape, fresh cotton gown,
no furrows of pain on the pale crepe of her brow.
I took my phone out to the sunporch to update our
brother. I'd barely spoken when a bolt of lightning
struck the house. Zipped right down a metal duct 
an arm's reach away from me. I dropped the phone.
Took a moment. My heart, still beating.
The house, utterly silent. The electricity had gone
out, which made things seem peaceful.
I remembered oxygen. That she would suffocate.
I hurried back to the den where my sister and I 
in treble octaves discussed the emergency
backups. Then noticed my mother was breathing
on her own. She hadn't done this since last winter.

Around half-past, a shuddering little house-quake
brought the power back on. We breathed.
My mother's pulse-oxygen, measured by a device
pinched on her finger—a number we watched
like the basketball scores, like the polls before
an election—had plunged to the failure zone. Now
with machine assist she rallied back into the nineties.
Dean's List. All her life, that's where she liked to be.

This might be the moment to step one last time 
from the bedside to mention that while we spoke kindly,
mostly, my mother and I did not love one another.
Ever, not even when I was a baby—as I've lately learned
from letters she wrote her friend from a cold plywood
house in Annapolis where I crawled u her legs and
drove her nuts, where she begged my two-year-old brother
to look after me, wished Dad would come home
from the navy and they could zoom away from us
in their aquamarine Chevrolet.

When women are instructed to bear children,
we don't think of such possibilities.
That we are on our own here. There is no Dean's List.

The blessing is that later, in better times, she had
another daughter. I cherished my sister, too; it's no fault
of hers that lightning only strikes once. I would be
the unspeakable first failure that stuck in my mother's 
throat, the child who would never be gentled,
or allowed to touch her good things, or even allowed to
take her to lunch, but could take the rap, the bad daughter.

However I might hold myself to the good of my own life,
the too-many lovers, the eventual sweet husband, 
the daughters more necessary to me than my two eyes,
none of this could alter the daughter I was.
But for these last weeks—

     —but for these last weeks
while I spoon-fed my mother and crushed pain
medicine into liquid drops on her tongue,
did things too intimate to say—the bathing
and changing she once did for me, that trapped
her so terribly—through all these labors she
seemed to be sleeping but sometimes unexpectedly
gripped my hand, and did not zoom away.

She left on her own recognizance. No final
confessions, still the untroubled brow, the oxygen
thanklessly pumping away. The rattle went quiet.
The pulse-ox fell to zero. At some point the thunder
had ceased, the storm passed over. I have
no recollection of a house filled with so much light.
The trees outside, so bright with rain. So much depends.
Here begins my life as no one's bad daughter.

Kingsolver, Barbara. "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes." How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons, Harper, 2020. 
You can read more about the author here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, some loving remembrances of loved ones, a clear heart, and lots of poetry as this week winds down.