Friday, June 16, 2017

Falling Out of the Saddle Again



At times, I have considered myself a serious poet.

The first time was in fifth grade. I remember spending some springtime recesses sitting under the trees with a notebook. One of the poems I wrote was about tomato plants freezing. I was a weird 11-year-old.

In high school, I was able to write several poetry projects for classes and published a poem in a church magazine.

My most serious stint of writing was for a few years right after my RA diagnosis. I joined the Utah Poetry Society and wrote extensively for their annual contests. A fun group called "Poetry Conspiracy" invited me to join and I had a weekly forum of editing and inspiration.


I placed in several contests, published a few more poems, and felt quite artistic. I even ran the contest one year.

But it was too much, or part of too much activity. I couldn't teach full time and be seriously involved in anything else. My body revolted.

 I cut back. For the next decade my official schedule was "teach and sleep." Luckily, my boys went to my middle school and then to the high school down the street, so I at least had daily time with them.

I did keep writing, mostly for school as inspiration for student projects, but even that was curtailed the last couple of years as a new administration pretty much trampled over my interpretation of the common core curriculum.

Fibromyalgia interfered too. Either the brain spasms that cause pain or the drugs that freeze part of my brain have made me lose names and words. I'm simply not as clever as I used to be. I have all the time in the world to write poetry now, just like I have all the time I'd like to read. But both of these activities are much harder than they used to be. Often too hard.


Which brings me to the point. I signed up for Poetry Society again this year. This week I got an invitation to the local monthly meetings. There is the start of a pictograph-inspired poem rattling around in my head, so I wanted to go.

But this has been a bad week. The weather went from hot to cold and now back to hot. Maybe that threw my body for a loop. Something did. It has taken me well past noon to get started most days. Some days I really didn't ever get started.

So I let pain be an excuse not to overcome the natural anxiety of bringing my writing to a room full of strangers in a building I haven't  driven to before.

 They meet twice a month and the man in charge seems very nice over email, so I will keep trying.

My challenge in poetry is the same as my challenge in all things: accepting a much slower pace from myself.

Next week, I plan to share with you my pictograph poem, hopefully enriched by reading on the topic. Also I will have pictograph knitting to share.


THE KNITTING

I've continued to chug along through the silk wrap. It's going faster than I thought, so I am now actually working on the border and will finish in a couple days.

I have also almost finished another little purse.

Other work, from more productive weeks, can be seen in my shop.


Friday, June 9, 2017

I Wonder



As I mentioned in a previous blog, Wonder Woman is one of my early role models. I never got into comic books, but I watched her adventures on Saturday mornings in Justice League cartoons. Even better was the prime-time show starring Linda Carter.

Wonder Woman was fun to play. Any jumprope would work as a lasso of truth. Transforming into a hero was as easy as spinning. All bracelets were (and still are) bulletproof.

Excitement over the new movie inspired nostalgia, so I watched the first few episodes. It's both as fun and as hokey as I remember. She punches a lot of Nazis (in Washington D.C.) and repeatedly saves the clueless but handsome Major Trevor. Other than very bad special effects (I love the invisible jet), it doesn't age too badly.
Princess Diana returning Steve Trevor to his world

 I'm sure women had the same mixed feelings about Wonder Woman in the 70s as now. The Wonder Woman theme song encapsulates the good and bad.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
All the world's waiting for you,
and the power you possess.

In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
Now the world is ready for you,
and the wonders you can do.

Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.

Wonder Woman,
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.
All our hopes are pinned upon you.
And the magic that you do.

Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold,
Change their minds, 
and change the world.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
You're a wonder, Wonder Woman.




The "satin tights" are definitely an issue. Wonder Woman's pinup girl/dominatrix look makes it hard to take her seriously (unlike Superman, who wears his underwear on the outside of his clothes).

That is probably why the menfolk in my house laughed out loud at the line, "Get us out from under, Wonder Woman."That comma just wasn't sung clearly enough.                    
                               
But the other values expressed in the song still strike a chord with me:

Make a hawk a dove. Stop a war with love. Make a liar tell the truth. Stop a bullet cold. Make the Axis fold. Change their minds, and change the word.

That's what I want my heroes to do. That's what I want to accomplish.

The DC Comics movies have gotten quite dark, so I was worried that the new Wonder Woman movie might leave behind the values that I love.

There were definitely changes. Special effects made fight scenes and exceptional powers much more realistic. The beginning part with the Amazons showed serious warriors instead of sexy girls in flowing fabrics.

Because the movie is set in WWI instead of WWII, there are no jets, invisible or otherwise, and no Nazis. Major Trevor is a much more believable spy because he is morally ambiguous and flawed.
Leaving stars off the costume makes her international.

But Diana is the same. She wants to help everyone, save everyone. Gal Godot does a good job of showing both the innocence of a girl raised in a sheltered world and the power of a skilled warrior.

Because Diana is dropped into the unsolvable world of war, she sees the worst of humanity--murder, deceit, destruction of the innocent.

Over about a week in time, Wonder Woman reaches the depths of disgust and despair, then has to decide if the human race is worth saving. She chooses to keep fighting for us because of our capacity to love.

I wonder how long it will take for the rest of humanity to reach the same conclusion.



P.S. (and less serious)

In the upcoming Justice League movie, they are updating one of the least respected superheroes. Aquaman has always been geeky. Plus they really have to twist the plot to find a use for talking to fish. But in the new movie, Aquaman will be played by Jason Mamoa. It will definitely make me want to spend more time by the ocean.

Save me, Aquaman!


THE KNITTING

I finished this little bag, which will be a Christmas gift. It came as a kit in a Jimmy Beans beanie bag in December and I followed the pattern for the most part. I found the color work fiddly, but I'm very happy with the finished result.


My current challenging project is this lightweight lace wrap in a gorgeous silk/cashmere blend from Renaissance Yarns. I can only work on this while thinking, so it is coming along slowly. I'll keep you updated.

Yesterday I got some yummy yarn in the mail. It is this month's delivery for the Mountain Meadow Wool Legacy Yarn Club. The pattern is cute, but only uses two colors, so I will probably use some Mountain Meadow Wool I already have stockpiled. I'm dreaming up a three color shawl for this special wool, which is 75% mountain merino and 25% pulled American Bison. (Need a challenging job? Pull fleece off buffalos.)






Friday, June 2, 2017

The Price of Dancing


Three days home from my camping trip, Sunday, was spent mostly in bed. I went to bed with the best church-going intentions, but after getting up and feeding the pets, I ran out of energy. A shower wasn't likely, let alone getting myself ready for nine o'clock service.

Itchy red dots covering my legs make it tempting to blame this lethargy on exsanguination by mosquitoes. In reality, the little beasts probably got less than the nurse does at my regular three month check-up.

Exhaustion for me is normal and expected. It is the price I must pay for having fun while chronically ill.


My parents planned a leisurely outing. I did my best to take it easy and get enough rest. I sat most of the time and spent each afternoon lying around. The trip was less physically demanding than two days of teaching or four part-time days of any work I can imagine.

Now, a week later, I'm more functional, but still hurting and dragging more than usual. The current feeling (that the mitochondria of my cells have all shut down at once) is a reminder that despite improvements on the current miracle drug, I am in no condition to go back to work.

I so want to work. I want to wear nice clothes and act important again. I want to have a daily routine that takes me beyond my house and the supermarket. I want the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

But for now, my energy, and usefulness, is measured not by teaspoons, but with an eyedropper. I am still trying to determine the best application for those sporadic drips.


Was my trip to the desert worth a week of exhaustion and nausea-inducing pain? Absolutely! I have to break free sometimes or life is not worth living. I just can't afford to do it very often.

I have just under two months to recover before the next adventure--A Shakespeare festival in July.



THE KNITTING

I finished some knitting before my trip and some during it, so this week's slow knitting won't be apparent yet. Above is a luxuriously soft and lightweight summer scarf made of silk and linen in a basic lace mesh. It is already listed in my shop. 

I finished this scarf right before I left and should have brought it along to prevent sunburn on my neck. (I bought a bandana.)

I also finished a hat that still needs to be photographed outdoors to create a good picture for the Etsy listing.


On the trip, I worked on a metallic-looking scarf, for men or women, out of wool and tencel (a type of rayon.) It matched the rocks in the desert, and will match many coats and sweaters. It is also listed in my shop. 


My final on-trip project is a blanket. I don't recommend knitting a blanket, even a small one, on a hot-weather trip. It did spend a lot of time warming my already warm lap. Also it is made from Red Heart Light and Lofty, which is both very acrylic and annoying to work with.  But I am happy with the results. I have already figured out where it will be going for Christmas.



During this recovery week, I have knit a hat, a purse, and part of a lace wrap. I've also dreamt of pictograph-inspired clothing. I'll update you next week.



Friday, May 26, 2017

A Gimp's Guide to Southeastern Utah

The gold cliffs and blue skies by Grey Canyon near the Green River

Adds for Utah travel urge you to see the big five--Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Because I grew up in Utah and was blessed with parents willing to travel, I have seen them all--and seen them all grow more crowded especially Arches, my favorite (and apparently everyone else's). 

To avoid the crowds, my folks have become increasingly adventurous. They are always finding new wonders. Most of the beauty I saw on this trip lies outside of the national parks.

The ideal way to really see any place is to spend the time it takes to walk through it. That is the way to learn the flowers, stones, and animals. You need to see shadows move across the landscape and look at a scene from multiple perspectives. Usually my parents set up base camp and go on several long hikes.

But our itinerary was planned around my limited energy stores. We went to as many pretty places as  possible where I could enjoy redrock splendor with limited exertion. 
Street at is not limited to pavement: A sculpted metal tribute to Spanish explorers by Eldon Holmes from Cleveland, Utah
Most of the land between the Rockies and the Sierras looks dull and desolate. If you remove the artwork from the photo above and maybe turn down the red in the cliffs, it could be almost anywhere. There are huge gaps between wonders. So the truck, and my dad as driver, did a great deal of work. We drove bout 400 miles after parking the trailer in Green River.

The Green River State Park is an oasis of cottonwood trees (and mosquitoes) on the banks of the Green River. From the picnic table I could see a railroad bridge across the river. We compared how well each of us slept by comparing the number of train whistles heard in the night.


On the first evening, we drove to two nearby sights. Crystal Geyser is caused by chemical rather than geothermal forces. It was created by people who were drilling for oil, but hit carbonated water instead. No one I know has seen it erupt, but guide books claim it happens every fourteen hours and shows a picture as proof. Chemicals in the water stain the rocks in interesting colors that match the silk/wool scarf I knitted.

On the way out and back, we spotted two families of pronghorn antelope--a total of 12. We also saw two cottontail rabbits.

After that we drove out to Gray Canyon. There is a nice campground on the river at Swasey's Beach.

We enjoyed the chance to drive past some of the farms that produce famous Green River melons. Main Streets in rural towns don't show much of their stories.
Our only eating out was that first night, at the Tamarisk Restaurant. It is locally owned and top quality, though I must warn that the salads are enormous.

Tuesday was my favorite day. We first drove to Black Dragon Canyon. Dark desert varnish on the sandstone walls could easily inspire it's name. So could the shadowy twists of the canyon, but it was really inspired by pictographs we found after a gentle walk.
Natural black marks on the walls of Black Dragon Canyon.

It is easy to see the painted human shapes on the left side of the picture. If you look carefully for the same shade of red on the bottom left and use your imagination, you may see the shape of a dragon. 






If the "dragon" is a dragon, it would be the only one in known early American art.

We found even more elaborate art in BuckHorn Wash. There we found a large panel created by the Barrier Canyon Culture About two thousand years ago, vandalized by the Fremont culture 1000 years later and by modern Americans over the course of the last 100 years. It was carefully restored by Constance Silver in 1996. 



I am fascinated by mankind's universal drive to create art. I have bought a book about Utah rock art to learn more. Motifs from these panels will appear in my knitting soon.

An informational sign informed us that we were standing on rock formed in the Jurassic age and looking up at younger stone. Little wonder that we wanted to find a dinosaur footprint shown by a local guide. Directions were confusing. Dad and I scrambled up a likely-looking piece of sandstone, but directions were confusing and we had no luck dino hunting that day.
We did see two wild donkeys, not something we knew to expect from the area. Like all wild things, they were gone before we could take a picture.

The final stop on Tuesday was The Wedge, a great overlook into the Green. I adore heights and can no longer scale mountains, so overlooks are great for me. 




Tuesday's driving was mostly on dirt roads, some of them quite interesting. Wednesday was almost all highway. The first stop was Fisher Towers.


It would be a great hike for teens or young adults. It is mostly right on the redrock with ups and downs and interesting little canyons as well as a stunning view. 




I had fun and wore myself out within prescribed limits. We walked in for 15-20 minutes, then turned around and walked out. I would have loved to do more, but limits were wise. The little hike left me breathless in more ways than one.

A long drive, much of it in a red canyon right next to the Colorado River, brought us to the LaSalle mountains, quite a change of scenery. We drove up high enough to find a shady lunch spot under ponderosa pines. While there, a friendly man told us about dinosaur tracks just a little way up the road. 

These were much easier to find: big raptor tracks in an alpine setting. Amazing.



The final stop was our only National Park moment. 

Island in the Sky, in Canyonlands, is exactly how it sounds, a place of amazing views. Hikers, (like my parents  if I'm not along) find more fun in the the Needles area of the park. 


This is how I look on the edge of a cliff.


This is how I feel at the edge of a cliff.

There is more to tell, but I'm broken. I need to rest for a few more hours this afternoon before even thinking about dinner preparations.

Besides, the River Museum in Green River (highly recommended) sells a bumper sticker that says "Keep Green River Secret." So don't tell anyone that it is a better base camp than Moab.

I will show you my knitting next week.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back to the Stone Age

 

I'm going camping with my parents next week.

 What that actually means has changed a lot over the years.

I went backpacking before I can remember, when I was small enough to be the backpack, but big enough to try to evict Mom from our shared sleeping bag in the middle of the night.
This looks just like our tent, and our mountains.

 I was nine or ten when my parents bought a canvas spring-bar tent (which is still entirely serviceable almost 30 years later). The tent trips have blurred into a collection of similar memories, but they are all pleasant. While camping, we kids would burn pinecones in the fire, wade in little streams, and explore nearby woods.
This trip, I prefer my parent's healthy food.

We tasted rare delicacies-- soda pop, sugar cereal, and canned stew or ravioli--junk food truly appreciated by kids used to three home-cooked meals a day with fresh ingredients from the garden.

I remember listening to rain on the canvas at night and waiting in my sleeping bag on cold mornings for Dad to get up first and restart the fire.

The memories are idyllic, but I've taken my kids on tent camping trips and have seen them from the other side--mud and soot everywhere, kids stuck in the tent all day because the rain just won't stop,  midnight walks to smelly outhouses.

 I don't have clear memories of Mom doing anything but cooking. Most of the time she was probably trying to keep my younger siblings from drowning in streams or burning themselves in fires.

 Every time I took my kids camping, I had extended family as backup. Mom didn't. I don't know how she did it, especially how she kept on doing it, but I'm grateful.
This poor kid needs a book and a flashlight.

Eventually, a tent trailer made camping easier for everyone. It was amazing. We could cook and eat indoors away from bugs and weather. If it rained, there was a table for playing cards or coloring pictures. There was enough room to spread out and not all be on top of each other. No one had to sleep on bumpy ground or walk across bedding with muddy shoes.

My parents' current trailer is even nicer. It is hard-sided and easier to set up (though not to park). There is a bathroom with shower, a tv, DVD player, microwave, and air conditioning. We will be at a state park with electrical hookups, so everything will work.

Of course this is far from stone-age living. My only "sacrifice" is to be without the internet for two whole days.
I would love to understand these stories carved onto stone.

So why did I choose a stone-age title? Part of it is tongue-in-cheek because of such cushy camping.

It also fits our destination, the Canyonlands area of the Colorado Plateau, where stone formations are  what people come to see.

Finally, we will be visiting areas long inhabited by "Stone Age" people who were clever enough to farm, hunt, and raise families in a landscape that quickly kills modern folks once we are separated from our technology.

Even with all the mod-cons, survival will be an issue for me. Though my parents are old enough to be my parents, they are super healthy. They hike three miles a day--sun, snow, or rain. I can walk a slow mile, on mostly level sidewalks, most days, if I haven't already over-exerted myself.

The schedule was planned to accommodate all of us. There will be drives to fantastic overlooks and through pretty scenery for me, then I can rest in the trailer or the back of the truck while my folks scale cliffs to chase bighorn sheep.

I'll let you know how I did in next week's blog. Hopefully with good pictures.

THE KNITTING


I finished the papaya shawl, which will become a birthday gift this fall.


I also knitted enough adoptable sheep to make an even dozen, still all Shetland, though in even more shades, and have finally listed them in my shop ($20 each).

Currently on needles is a summer scarf made of a soft silk/linen blend.

And I'm packing yarn, needles, and patterns for my (four day) camping trip. I'm not sure I have enough.