Friday, June 30, 2017

Mourning an Internet Cat



The internet is weird. Saturday morning I found myself genuinely saddened by the passing of Bitches the Cat. She was a Twitter celebrity who mostly showed off "paw work" (demonstrated above) and meowed the praises of catnip. She has two younger siblings who were a source of many postings and complaints.

Flooflion
She also got political and was delighted at being blocked by several members of the Trump family. A favorite hobby was enticing people into hours-long arguments about whether or not cats could actually use the internet.
Kiddo
I will probably miss Bitches as much as I will miss either of the shedding throw pillows with which I spend my life.

Far from offering to lead the resistance, my cats are shockingly disengaged from politics. If they had to express opinions, it would probably be in favor of monarchy.

My cats, Coal and Milkshake. I'll let you figure out which one is which.
They are also even more useless than I am. I feel like I spend 20 hours a day resting or sleeping. My cats manage 23+. We have sloths beat at sloth and are trying to compete with Gila monsters (which spend 99% of their time in underground dens and come out very rarely to mate and eat).

Gila monsters don't shed, don't eat much, and their venom is medically useful!
I'm not sure what drives the human need to connect with people (or cats) we will never actually meet, but celebrity culture seems pretty inescapable. Despite the fact that next week I will celebrate my country's almost 250 year freedom from the British monarchy, I know who Pippa Middleton is, that she has a famously beautiful posterior, and that she has recently married. To my shame, I know more about the Windsors, whom I don't actively follow, than I do many of my own cousins.

Odysseus's infidelities may have made great scandals to Ithicans. 
Before we had the internet, there was television, radio, magazines, newspapers. Go back far enough and celebrity news was shared through dime novels and sheet music. Before that there were traveling actors and musicians.

It may be that following the adventures of celebrities and heroes adds excitement and glamor to our lives without the risk and responsibility that comes with real relationships.

Who are your favorite famous people (or guilty obsessions)? What do you love about them?

Current work is 100% alpaca. The other is a silk/merino blend.

THE KNITTING

A friend has commissioned me to knit some pretty throws for her living room. Those will be my primary knitting for at least all of July.  This is the best type of knitting. Someone else pays for fancy yarn and provides a use for the final product. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

You can see here how little my cats help around the house.

I finally have the pictograph shawl and the green silk and cashmere wrap finished. They are currently being blocked, which means they are washed and then pinned into the desired shape to dry. Once they are dry enough to photograph properly, they will be posted in my shop.

I use rubber matting squares for play rooms to pin finished knitting, hence the festive background colors.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Poem for an Ancient Artist


The most amazing pictographs of the Colorado Plateau are attributed to the Barrier Canyon Culture. These people were hunter-gatherers who lived in the area 1000-7000 years ago. They came before the  Fremont and Anasazi peoples started farming and building stone houses in the area. No one knows the purpose or meaning of their artwork. The following poem is my speculation about their creations.


To the Pictograph Artist of Buckhorn Wash, 
San Rafael Swell, Utah


Perhaps you painted dogs
to delight a restless child,
who then demanded, “Snakes!
Paint Daddy catching snakes!
Now make a sheep!”


But not on this high wall, 
you needed ladders, scaffolding—
cottonwood lengths chopped by stone tools,
bound with hand-spun rope.
and paint—a  mix of minerals 
to stain stone for millennia. 


No idle evening sketching— a tribal project.
So you must have practiced
traced figures with a stick in river sand,
marked the wall into charcoal rough draft
before committing to eternity 
a message long since lost. 



Does this painting claim the canyon for your clan,
sing a  history of heroes,
or, like cathedral carvings,
show symbols of your people's sacred lore?
Are the men your brothers, fathers, gods?



And the women,
with ropes or snakes or rivers
where arms and hair would be,
when they glowed wet
the color of fresh blood,
did all who saw them recognize
goddesses, or witches?


Or were they already alien?
abstract self-portraits,
poems only you 
could understand?


THE KNITTING

I have more ideas than energy to knit. But I have made one hat with pictograph dogs on it and I am working on a shawl that features what some modern observers call a "rain angel." Hopefully by next week they will both be finished and listed in my shop.

Many pictograph dogs are better fed then these. They may be coyotes.

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.