Monday, May 28, 2007

In A Heartbeat!

This America that we live in, knit in, garden in, raise our children, didn't just happen. It was an idea, embraced and fought for, over and over again.

It is not easy to wrap my mind around the notion that someone really did go to Afghanistan, to Korea, to Normandy; someone really did die at Gettysburg, really did lay down his life at Concord so that I and my family could live and knit and garden and raise children. So we could choose how to live and not be subjected to tyrrany.

American men and women rouse themselves from uncomfortable sleep in countries all over the world; they pull on their boots, look for coffee, grab an MRE, and show up for duty with the rest of their squad. They are loaded down with many pounds of equipment intended to protect them, and a gun to kill the enemy. They listen to their orders, to the description of the mission for the day. Then they go out and do it.

They think of their homes and families; of sweethearts and children. They think of their schools or jobs back home. Their mouths go dry and insides become liquid; fear is their constant companion. But they pull on their boots, show up for duty, and go out and do it - for their country, for their families, for me and for you.

Would I die for freedom? Would I die to prevent someone taking all this away from my children? Would I stand between the liberties I enjoy and the threat of losing it all? Would I? Would I take that soldier's place? Would I ?


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Imagination and Good Bones!

Gosh, what is it about that Mason*Dixon Knitting book? It just grabs me! Well... I keep grabbing it, at least. The simple patterns are really just the frameworks for my own imagination. How clever those two gals, to put these things into a book that inspires endlessly. Permission granted for flying off the handle! Permission granted to be gaudy! Permission granted to let go and be yourself! Permission granted to reveal your innermost your knitting! you really want to try watermelon and grape together? Or mango and chocolate? Why not? Want to put cotton and mohair in the same project? Go for it! You've heard the "experts" who urge us to be ourselves. I think that is what Kay and Ann realized when they wrote their book. It holds a key for unlocking the creativity in knitters; I am a beginner knitter, I believe. I enjoy trying new things, and I readily seek challenges, as I find my skills increasing. BUT, when I just need to knit, to calm myself, to soothe myself, to put troubles out of mind, I want knitting that I don't have to work too hard at.

(About one third of my stash.)

Then I want the pattern to be easy; I want it to be adaptable, flexible. I have a great stash, and a retired husband. I bought so much yarn while he was still working that I would be ashamed to be seen in a yarn store right now (OK, OK, that's a lie, but you know what I mean); I can't justify my desire for more yarn. So I see the log cabin pattern and begin poking my nose into the different bins of yarn until a project coalesces in my imagination. I have made five log cabin blankets since purchasing the book. They are all different in most respects; each a totally different knitting experience from the one before. And I have learned something new from each; what a pattern!

Barbara Walker's mosaics fascinated my mother. She talked about them a great deal, even when she could no longer knit them. So one quiet evening, I pulled out her book and gave it a try myself. Her explanation and clear instructions were excellent. I found making my swatch tedious, but not terrible. I put it away months ago, and thought, in the back of my mind, I would never pick up that sort of knitting again. In fact, I told my brother a few days ago that I was not interested in doing that because it was far too much work.

Enter Mason*Dixon Knitting and the Nina Shawl, a creation from Phyllis Howe. Oh, my, what a pretty thing! And the color combinations and yarn combinations were varied and...inspiring! I have looked at those pictures many, many times, but was in the mood for a new project two days ago, and saw those pages again; everything clicked into place. I poked around in my stash and came up with a shocking assortment of mercerised cottons. I made a change to the pattern right off the bat: I cast on 160 rather than 120 stitches, making it somewhat wider than the original. My imagination was in full bloom, and despite the mosaic work or intarsia or Fair Isle technique required by the checkerboard, I was filled with enthusiasm.

I have made a number of Kay and Ann's projects now: enough to know that I can do whatever I please, and it will come out just fine; I am no longer timid. I am enjoying this new-found freedom of expression and find it envigorating. You've heard about models who age well: good bones. Well, Mason*Dixon Knitting has good bones, too!


Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This basket was a birthday gift. I saw it at The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway and liked it so much that my sweet husband purchased it for me. We live in an area where crafts are abundant and there are many galleries and shows as well as the twice yearly Southern Highlands Craft Guild Fair. What fun!

We have been attending these fairs for almost 30 years - as long as we have lived in the mountains. Other purchases include paintings, jewelry, pottery, glass, wooden bowls and spoons and myriad other items. We find pleasure in giving these at holiday time or any other time, as well as displaying them proudly at home. We have come to look for certain artists whose work we admire. This basket was made by George McCollum and I find the workmanship exquisite. Below, you can see the bottom of the basket.
What I find amazing is its size! It will be just perfect in my dollhouse, don't you think? Maybe on a kitchen table, filled with ripe apples, or summer squash from the garden. When my last son was too young for preschool, but old enough to keep me very busy, I stumbled upon a dollhouse to make and a new hobby for me began.

My husband, who was coming to the rescue even then, set up two sawhorses and placed a twelve foot long piece of plywood across them to form the perfect table for me to begin my building project. When my son was napping, I went to the table and began putting it together. Eventually the house rose to two stories from the brick foundation, with yellow siding, a wrap-around porch and white railings, and a real shake roof. Hours and hours of delightful, quiet time was spent with that project.

He was just 18 months old when I began building that house, as something that would engage my mind and be a challenge. Sometimes, especially during caregiving, one can lose track of self. Having a hobby or something engaging that you are passionate about will help to bring balance to your life. The dollhouse and its decorations and furnishings (I am still collecting, as you can see) have become a lasting joy; they will remain firmly coupled with that child forever in my mind.

As I became a caregiver for my mother, I tried to build another dollhouse, but it just didn't work this time. That's where the knitting came in; it began so very quietly and quickly became a true passion...and brought balance, once again.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Breath of Spring

Another kimono - this time in Classic Elite's Four Seasons (cotton and wool) - from M*D Knitting. The colors (splotchy greeny white) fit right in with all the new green emerging here in the mountains. I am using No. 6 birch needles from Brittany; they were Mom's, and make this project easy and fun.

Knitting outside on the patio when it's not too hot is glorious. My kitties plead at the screen door for a brief while, and finally succeed in wearing me down; I bring them out, one at a time. Each has learned he may be outside as long as he sits quietly on my lap; any move toward the ground results in his finding himself back inside.

So we sit and watch the birds...and watch the bees...and watch the boughs moving with the breeze...we even watch the ants who occasionally trek across a flagstone just beneath us. Time slows to keep pace with the ant, eyelids grow heavy, hands on fur relax.

When restlessness returns and paws climb to my shoulder, a walkabout is in order. "Do you see the new columbine? Such a soft pink...and this is the plum tree...see those purple leaves? Oh, look at the teeth on the Lady's Mantle...and see, it will be blooming soon." We stroll for a while, cat eyes wide and whiskers twitching, from one side of the yard to the other, until time to switch cats. "In you go! OK, Lance...your turn." And the lap sitting begins again... and we watch the birds... and the chippies... and the squirrels....

I put my feet up, and rest my head. I listen...and breathe deeply... something is blooming so sweetly...I grow a little drowsy...a wren is calling through the clear air...a catbird alights on the birdbath and enjoys a little splash. Lance nods in my lap...We live in Eden, I think.
Eden in the twenty-first century...intoxicating viburnum erases all thought; the sweet scent of newly-mown grass hitchhikes on a zephyr, passes beneath my nose, inducing nostalgia. Enormous Hosta leaves unwrap themselves silently; unseen, tiny insects colonize their prize: a gossamer blossom.
Somewhere a dog barks; traffic in the distance moves along as folks head for home. A mom greets her returning school children up the block.

Somewhere beside me, on the patio seat, is my forgotten knitting.