Friday, April 20, 2018

Slush and Slant Rhymes

Early Tuesday morning we got six wet, heavy inches of snow.

This is not unusual. My parents have dozens of slides taken during my childhood that feature bright
red tulips blooming out of the snow. Descendants of those tulips are just getting warmed up, plenty of more weeks with possible snow, but somehow it seems more like a personal affront this year.

So, I must be a good girl and count my blessings (or at least my blossoms).

My favorite exotic wildflowers are starting to bloom.

So is my birthday-present peach tree,

and the pears,

and Grandpa's cherry tree.

Of course that means if it doesn't warm up soon and stay that way, we may not have fruit this year.

Oops--supposed to be counting blessings.

Aquarium flowers count as mine, since I'm a member, right? The South American rain forest there is amazing. I see something new blooming every visit.

A huge blessing for me this spring has been the constant presence of daffodils outside my window for nearly two months. I had no idea what I was doing when I planted them, but I have managed to get five different varieties that bloom at different times.

Although unstable weather has kept us from riding bikes very often, I am trying to get my beast outside, which results in cold toes and sloppy shoes, but a happy mutt. 

And, once again, I am feeling the urge to write poetry and feeling stymied by my foggy brain. But I am reading about writing poetry and trying to dip my toe back in the water.

I have managed to write a short piece this week. It is a poem about writing poetry, which, as a genre, I find as annoying as those plays with plays in them. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Bill.) But here it goes--

I carved 
rare, juicy 
across the grain

hearty, roasted 

in a light

Now I lean over the sink
spoon in hand

eat cold alphabet soup
from a can

I wouldn't actually eat cold alphabet soup--but poetry isn't entirely non-fiction. Maybe if I keep doing these warm up exercises, the frozen part of my brain will actually warm up a bit.

THE PODCAST was enlightened by an episode of another podcast, Ben Franklin's World had an interview about the Great Awakening, which helped me understand Emily Dickinson's religious background and with it some of her struggle with faith. Emily and I confront big questions about the nature of God in this week's episode.

THE KNITTING comes along slowly. The skirt is monotonous and heavy. I have broken one needle on it so far and my arms feel like I have been lifting weights. When I finish, I will reward myself by knitting a lightweight, lacy cotton vest. I bought the pattern and yarn  years ago. Mine will be in bright turquoise. By the time it is finished, I should be able to find a place I can model it in knee-deep flowers.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Take My Idea, Please

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"
--Robert Browning

My imagination has a large reach. It has spent multiple millions remodeling and adding on to my home, refurbishing a historical church in my neighborhood, and building a vacation home. Not to mention the feral cat reserve.

Of course, financial reality keeps all of these dreams entirely in the world of imagination.

My imagination surpasses my physical abilities too. I have yard work, house work, and wool work plans that are made with the best of intentions, but never come to pass.

The idea I want to give away today is for a podcast. I currently create a short weekly poetry podcast (this week it's about the power of small moments of beauty-- listen here.) and this blog. Although neither look like a big deal, it is amazing how difficult it is sometimes to meet my own self-imposed deadlines. I hoped that after I worked on my poetry podcast for a while and learned how it was done, I could tackle something bigger. Well, I've published nine episodes and it is getting easier. I can record, edit, and publish fairly smoothly. I also know that my short podcast, based mostly on information already in my head, is probably the best I'll ever be able to do.

Of course the podcast of my imagination is probably too big for any one person. What I'd love to create, but love more just to listen to, is a project I would call "Beyond Cowboys and Indians: History of the Intermountain West." There is so much amazing history in this part of the country and I know it would be fantastic to share it in podcast form.

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers has inspired a lot of this interest. Every month I hear an hour-long lesson full of stories of bravery, intelligence, and humor. These stories need a larger audience. And they are just a tiny part of our great story--the Mormon settlers. There are also all the stories of Native Americans going back more than ten thousand years, plus miners, soldiers, trappers, explorers, and so many more people who came to make a life in this beautiful, but often challenging, part of the country.

A model for what I would like to do is the podcast called "Ben Franklin's World," hosted by Liz Covart. Each week, the interviews an expert about Colonial America.

There are plenty such experts here. A few weeks ago, I talked to a woman at the Utah Museum of Natural History who is working on a doctorate on anthropology. She was measuring and studying moccasins left in caves by the Great Salt Lake about 10,000 years ago. We have college professors, museum directors, tribal leaders, authors, and many knowledgeable amateur historians with great stories to tell.

A foundation funds and produces "Ben Franklin's World," and that would be the best course for this podcast of my dreams. If you are an ambitious influencer who could get this done or inspire someone else to do so, go for it. I don't even need credit for imagining the idea.


My sweater has been within a couple hours of finished for a week now. I broke my long needles, so the stitches are squished together and the sweater is hard to photograph. My dyed yarn is in progress toward becoming a skirt and my dyed fiber is being turned into yarn. I don't feel like I've been working on wool stuff much lately, but apparently, I'm wrong. Of course you can see more of my work in my shop.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

You never forget how to fall off a bicycle

I never rode like this and don't know these kids, but the helmet and padding look accurate to the time.

I've lately had strong memories of what it was like to be seven-years-old. That was the year I got my first bike. A box containing a blue bike appeared in the TV room a few weeks before my early April birthday. Dad said it was for my cousin in Idaho, whose baptism we planned to drive north for soon. But it was a powder blue girl's bike, so I was pretty sure it wasn't for Russell. When we headed to Idaho without it, I knew it was mine.

There was a wait before I could learn to ride because it was a snowy spring. 

I'm sure my parents must have helped with the first attempt, but all my childhood bike memories are of riding on my own. I remember learning in my Grandma's field, which sloped slightly downhill. Momentum and gravity kept me upright long enough to practice balance for a while before falling over. Falling isn't a big deal at seven, and nothing could beat the wild feeling of speed so I did that over and over until I could ride.

I don't remember ever riding that bike anywhere other than in the yard. The convenient park across the street would be an empty field for almost twenty more years. Our road was/is narrow and winding and dangerous for biking and my mom did not believe in letting us wander around unsupervised. Though I'm sure my folks sometimes drove me up to the newly built elementary school or the church parking lot, it is the field and the driveway I remember. The driveway was dirt and gravel and ran downhill from our garage to Grandma's house. On one early attempt at control, I crashed into my uncle's work truck and knocked off my front reflector. Apparently, I scratched or dinged the truck too, because my parents heard about it. 
It was my ten speed, also powder blue, though this time a sleeker-looking boy's bike, that brought me a degree of freedom as well as speed. I'm not sure which birthday brought this grown-up bike, but I was old enough to go on my own  (with permission) to visit friends and attend church activities.

It also brought new challenges. I had to learn how to use hand breaks to control myself on our steep hills. I had to figure out how to shift down to climb those hills. I also had to figure out how to get on the bike and get started. I couldn't reach the ground from the seat. My preference was to start next to a curb so I could have one foot on the ground as I pushed down on the opposite pedal to start.

I only remember one fall on the ten speed. Too  close to the edge of the road,  one wheel dropped off the four inch difference between pavement and shoulder and I went down. There was no real damage to me or my bike, but I remember this as scary and painful. Apparently even thirteen-year-olds fall less easily than seven-year-olds.

By high school, my activities were even further from home and my mom was relieved when she could let me drive to all the lessons, school activities, and 4-H meetings. My bike was effectively retired.

More than thirty years later, my sweetheart started thinking about getting bikes so we could explore the Jordan River parkway further than we can on foot. I was nervous, but don't want to discourage any adventures. Besides, our April birthdays were months away.

But in March, it really happened. We went into the Cottonwood Cycle to look around, but quickly became customers. Choosing my bike was love at first sight. Officially "green" (yes, I've heard the whole story) my blue bike matches my hair and caught my attention immediately. I patted its seat and handlebars and admired its beauty as my husband did all the bike shop business.
Our bikes are mostly indoors hiding from spring rains.

My birthday was Thursday (That's my excuse for a late blog too.) Despite frequent rains, we have been out on the bikes three times. This is the first time in my life I've worn a helmet and probably the least likely for me to need it. We plan to ride on nicely paved bike trails away from traffic.

 I'm 49 this year and hope not to fall at all on this bike. That was my thinking when I decided on a "girl" bike again. I can quickly put my feet on the ground if I have to. The other advantage I have discovered is in mounting the bike in the first place. I can almost lift my leg enough to get on this bike, but I still need to turn it sideways to lower things a bit.

Despite being an old lady, once I get started, I am seven again. I feel the same thrill over the slightly out-of-control sense of speed, the same roller-coaster-fear on a tight turn, the same sense of freedom.

I'll catch up on the knitting news next week, but should share the podcast.

My husband is amazing, so in addition to a bicycle and dinner, he got me a beautiful gift of flowers.
Coincidentally this week's podcast is about poems Emily Dickinson sent with gifts of flowers. 

You could make my day by subscribing to my (usually very short) podcast by looking for Poem Moment on either Podbean or iTunes.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring, Maybe

Miniature daffodils planted last fall out of spite after a deer-caused car accident. Behind them are deer-cropped tulips.

This week's snow storm was cancelled. My dog has been walked three days in a row. Crocuses are almost gone and there are leaves coming out on the lilacs.

Weeds are coming out too, lots of them. Yard jobs that were previously hidden under snowbanks are now painfully visible.

I should be outside working. My dad certainly is. So are the bees. Every patch of flowers is buzzing. I was even able to capture a few bees with my beginning photography skills and aged iPhone.

These violets are officially weeds. They grow anywhere we let them. This time of year their color is appreciated.
I've got poisonous, deer-resistant daffodils coming up everywhere. There can't be too much yellow this time of year.

The loudest buzzing comes from my parents' apricot tree, always the first orchard tree to bloom, which is why frost kills all the fruit six years out of seven.

Though I know we haven't seen our last snowflakes of the year, I am ready to, tentatively, call it spring.

THE PODCAST this week is spring-themed too. Emily Dickinson's poem, "A Lady red—amid the Hill," talks about early spring breezes sweeping the woods in preparation for a special guest. Who the guest may be is known only by the woods. Listen to discover the secret. 


Is making slow progress. I don't feel as kitty in warming weather as I do in cooling. The sleeves are almost finished on my Christmas sweater. Right now it is looking awfully heavy, and quite autumn-colored.

I still have the sweater body to knit. LDS General Conference is this weekend, which means 10 hours of church on TV and lots of knitting time. Finishing is a possibility unless I run out of yarn first, which is looking likely. I have 3 1/2 skeins left, plus more of the mixed color for the bottom. It will be close.

I've finished spinning the Corriedale from Beesybee. I'm still planning to dye it, probably light green, and am now considering making myself a skirt. That is brave for someone of my girth. But it is a strong yarn and is saying skirt to me right now, so I'll give it a try. The nice thing about knitting is it pulls apart nicely, so if a skirt doesn't please me, I can recycle it into another very warm sweater.

Dyeing is planned for Monday. To you normal people dyeing eggs instead, Happy Easter. May you have a beautiful, enjoyable spring.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Speeding up to Hit the Wall

I have a weird self-destructive streak. Sometimes I see a problem coming, know what I should do to head it off, but feel compelled to do just the opposite.

That's stupidly vague, so I will explain by telling you about my week.

I felt sick at church on Sunday. My back hurt unbearably and I was nauseous. I staggered home two hours early. My husband assured me I looked terrible, so I went to bed and did as little as possible the rest of Sunday and all of Monday.

But doing nothing is so boring.

Tuesday I felt better-ish, enough that I could drive my son to an appointment, read a little, knit a little. I went grocery shopping.

That's a pretty normal day for me. Night wasn't normal because I couldn't fall asleep until almost morning, but that happens a lot. Wednesday morning I recorded my podcast, which took more tries than usual, but at least is done sitting up in my bed.

 I didn't cancel Wednesday's plan to walk the Museum of Natural history with my friend. We wore out  before seeing the whole thing, which is fine because we got the membership. My plan was to go home and rest.

That lasted maybe half an hour. We moved a bookcase from one side of the room to another, which inspired some mania in me to completely rearrange which books went where throughout the house. I moved books off shelves and into boxes, but also up and down stairs until I was too tired to do that any more.

Instead of lying down to watch TV, I sat at my spinning wheel.

For three hours.

Again, I know better, One hour is a top limit if I want to prevent pain.

 but "Collateral" was on Netflix and the wool I am working with is so pretty as is that pattern I want to make with it. (I've already realized it won't work for that pattern, but reality hasn't kept me down this week.)

Wednesday night the fibromyalgia symptoms were extreme. I felt allergic to my own sweat and couldn't stop sweating.

The need to pull off all my skin was pretty overwhelming, but I keep my fingernails short for just that reason. The only resort was a middle of the night shower (a few hours after a bedtime shower).

Eventually I fell asleep and got at least three hours in before waking up at 9:30. The required task of the day was to edit and post the podcast. That includes updating the podcast website. Once I was done, I "rewarded" myself with a haircut and a trip to the aquarium. Since I was on the road, I also dropped flowers off at the cemetery and did a grocery store run.

I was running on no sleep and an amazing drug-proof headache. At this point I had known all day that the crash was not only inevitable, but had already happened. That didn't stop me from cooking dinner and working on the book project.

Last night I may have finally fallen asleep before midnight. I woke up at 12:30 in the afternoon. My body crashed days ago, but something in me has finally accepted reality.

Reality is that now I am too tired to do anything. I couldn't go to my nephews play tonight, nor will I be able to march for gun control tomorrow. Heck, I can't walk my dog, or knit, or read.

I may start to feel better some time tomorrow or some time next week. I may learn to pace myself too.

It is extremely fitting that this week's podcast poem is the dead awaiting resurrection. I'm right there with them.  Safe in their Alabaster Chambers

Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Tavel? No Thanks

We Mormons are highly encouraged to keep journals. 

Most of us have at least tried, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one whose efforts are pretty hit and miss. I wrote daily from sometime in middle school until I got married, but my adult life is recorded in poems, sporadic paragraphs, a few saved letters, and this blog.

Many of us use old age to make up for the lapses by writing life histories. Even journal keepers write shorter versions that are more accessible to the next generation.

This week at DUP, I had the opportunity to share what little information I could find about a pioneer woman who did not get the chance to write her life. All I could find was one page of anecdotes from a granddaughter.

Antionette Davenport Leavitt had an interesting life story. She crossed the plains from Illinois to Utah as a child and became one of the earliest residents of Wellsville Utah. She eventually became  the second wife in a polygamist family at a time when the federal government was cracking down on polygamy. 

We know she helped neighbors with illnesses and with stubborn milk cows, that she was a skilled seamstress and lace knitter. 

During at least one winter, her  children suffered from chilblains due to inadequate shoes.

Her husband called her Nettie and bought her a four-burner stove that the neighbors all came to see. 

Was Nettie happy? Did she love her husband? What did she dream about? 

There is no way of knowing because she didn’t have time to keep a journal and didn’t reach old age when she might have had the time to write a history. 

Nettie Leavitt died trying to give her birth to her tenth child. 

All of us at DUP (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers) enjoy learning about these pioneer ancestors, but none of us feel compelled to  reenact their lives. 

After so many of our meetings we chat about how hard it would have been. Every aspect of life was so much harder than it is now:

Tending to fires and cooking on wood stoves

Scrubbing laundry by hand

Sewing the family’s clothes, sometimes from fabric you spun and wove first

Growing enough food to feed the family year after year

Treating illness without modern medicine

Trying to keep anything clean

No modern feminine hygiene products


Outhouses and chamber pots

Weekly baths, reusing the same water for the whole family

Husbands often absent because they are 
serving missions, taking care of another family, in jail, or hiding from the law.

We admire our pioneer grandmothers, but would never want to trade places with them.

 As a chronically ill person, I’m especially grateful for modern medicine. FIfteen years without biologics would have left me severely crippled and I don’t know if I would have had anything other than frowned-upon alcohol for pain control.

Of course,  I would probably have died in childbirth before RA had a chance. Both of my big babies were delivered cesarean.

  Every once in a while when I was teaching a student would ask, if I could go to any time or place in the past, when and where would I go? 

My answer was that though there were many times I’d like to peek at, especially prehistoric times, there is no other time, and a limited number of places, even now, where I’d be willing to live as a woman.

THE PODCAST this week is not about pioneers, but it is about the prairie. Emily Dickinson has a very romantic view of grasslands, which I compare with a book I read about the dust bowl.

To Make a Prairie

My brilliant mom has been drawing Emily Dickinson coloring pages for me to use as a podcast fundraiser. the set is available in my shop for $15. As you can see, I've been having fun with them. I've printed multiple copies and if you buy the PDF, so can you.

THE KNITTING is back on track. I've finally started my "Christmas" sweater (above). Most years I buy myself yarn for a sweater to knit during the grey days. This one is a combination of my homespun and some great brown from Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming. The color is called "pinecone." The sweater will be Scandinavian in style with color work around the neck and above the ribbing at the waist and sleeves. It should be done by the time it stops snowing in May.

I also made myself this sweater out of natural sheep grey from Mountain meadows and my hands-on. In fact, the light grey is spinning fiber from Mountain Meadows too.

I enjoy the gentle exercise of spinning and the unique yarn it produces, so I am working on this natural Corriadale from Beesybee in California. I may dye it a light green or rose color when I'm done, which will only slightly tint the natural color changes.