Monday, October 31, 2011

Recovery, rebooting and rewards

The storm has officially passed, though a lot of people are still sitting in the dark and cold, fortunately for me I'm not one of them, poor guys. And since there wasn't a quorum to play recorder trios this afternoon, I made use of the suddenly free time to do what every redblooded recorder player does when her group doesn't meet.

I switched over into brute force mode, whipped out my Japanese pruning saw and secateurs, chopped and sawed and generally reduced the giant cherry branch on the patio to a few logs and a lot of brush and a giant trunk, about twelve or more feet long, which I dragged out to the woods. Stopping only to sneeze, newfallen snow brings sneezing with it, and now and then to burst out laughing because I realized I was acting in a tableau.

Macbeth. Extra credit to blogistas who get the reference. Cheat sheet for them as didn't: the woods of Dunsinane moving, or some wood moving to Dunsinane. Birnam. Oh well, I guess you had to be there. This was plenty of exercise for one day, since the static woods are about a thousand yards away and I did it three times in all, delighting little animals with shelter for the winter, and doing the woods good, too, when the tree decomposes into the earth.

And leaving the patio all denuded and neat

This feat of strength follows hard on the heels of an email telling me that the student who did the art project using my mentoring this year for her Girl Scout Gold Award got it! yay, a great achievement for her, not an easy award to design and execute and please the committee.

And on the domestic front, learning is just scorching ahead. The cashmere socks are now in service, perfect timing considering the weather, and I am now learning a different way to knit socks, as per the blue one you see in progress, flanked by the cashmere ones. Annie will recognize this yarn, a nice pure wool in a nice pure color.

The difference here is that I'm knitting toe up, all the other socks I've done being from the top down to the toe. This involves learning to do a provisional cast on, and this involves much cursing and muttering as I discover what the heck it is and why an ordinary cast on won't work, and how you end up doing a crochet chain and then incorporating that and it works just perfectly.

What happens is that you knit the toe, up one side, down the other, no seams, just clever footwork, and when you come back to the bit where you cast on, you have to somehow incorporate these stitches without making a hard seam which won't work when you wear the sock.

Enter the provo cast on which you unzip (or yank and wrench and snip, depending on if you happen to be me) and it comes out leaving live stitches all ready to be snared on the needles so you can continue with your round knitting. Seamless toe, lovely design. My approach not quite so seamless but what do you want of my life...all I can say is that I'm still learning, and that's a Good Thing. I bet Martha can't do a provo cast on. She probably has staff for that.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Late breaking news on the patio

Readers, I cannot tell a lie: the big cherry branch, the part that was left after Irene, the nonhurricane, tore off the rest, came down right while I was upstairs on the other side of the house, blogging about the snow on the patio.

Here it is, the good news being that nobody was out there when it fell down, that the birdfeeder is not attached to it, and it missed all my flowers.

And here's the snag left when it came down, note the unconcerned little bird perching on it!

birds are pragmatists. Or snagmatists, take yer pick.

I expected this to happen during the first wet snowstorm, but figured it would be January or thereabouts. Oh well. Once it dries I'll see about reducing it to cherry firewood.


And then there's 3,532,082,723.

Snow in October, in central NJ, not quite unheard of, but the last time we had snow on the flowers and autumn leaves was before HS was born. So I thought it was timely to give you the numbers above. No, they're not the snowflakes now accumulating all over the place here.

What they are, thanks to Mittens, are the numbers that relate to our birth order on earth. At the time I was born, I guess I was baby number 2,275....etc., and by the time HS arrived on earth, he was baby number 3,532...etc. Not entirely sure how they count this,but it reminds us that there are a lot of folks around, even though people do leave us all the time.

But since you ask, here are the current snow pix, out front and out back. Earlier

and after about an hour.

The cheering sight is that the road is still wet, no laying there. Snow pictures are my other besetting sin, along with reflection pictures.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr Dolliver attends her chief patient

Today was the ultrasound day, where I was to find out if there's anything lurking in my thyroid gland, so Dr. Dolliver put on her hat and escorted me to the Medical Arts building.

She showed me the ultrasound machine and explained its functions.

Note that she doesn't wear a white coat for the first part of the process, not wanting to trigger white coat anxiety in her patient.

Once the testing was done, she called in two colleagues to review their findings,

all in their official whites now, serious business.

And they declared that the human doctor was quite correct in stating that there are no problems to be addressed beyond taking a simple pill each day.

The nodules they'd found were so tiny as to be normal for my age. So this was a good day for the practice of medicine.

As Julian of Norwich would have put it if she'd been there: all is well and all manner of things will be well.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Dollivers Present: Tableaux!

The Ds have decided to become impresarios, presenting various tableaux, which they can't spell so they asked me to write this bit for them, for your viewing pleasure. Here's their maiden effort. Feel free to add captions of your choice.

They would also like to point out that these are rescued figures and animals, in keeping with the kindness to planet earth that they are now deeply interested in since they made the (very successful, they add) soap, back there a while ago. Required only a visit to the thrift store.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Bird, Sock and Cat Count

Here's Sock One, on my old foot, with Marigold pushing in, of course. Score: one sock down, one to go. The second would be further along if I had done the right rib, which is K2P2, but in the excitement of watching an Agatha Christie movie, I did K1P1, sigh, so it's back off the needles again.

The pillow in the picture is a log cabin design I did, using variegated yarn found at the local thrift, just enough for this project. that was during my log cabin period when I also made a light cotton throw for HP for summer. After these two projects I got all over picking up stitches and went on to other kinds of knitting.

Bird count: yesterday the first of the juncoes returned. Sign of winter in this region. But since there are still a few wild cherries on the tree out there, and a refilled seed feeder, plus a suet holder, all on the patio, a regular five star avian restaurant, the score was interesting.

Birds: two juncoes, two pairs of chickadees, an entire flock of a dozen mourning doves all coorooing and sitting around looked very peaceful and calm, two yellow warblers, the Jack Russells of the avian world, why have they changed it to Parson? Jack's fine by me, dashing like maniacs around the tree, cardinals, purple finches, two pairs, one Carolina wren, probably one of our babies, judging from the lovely fresh plumage, pair of bluejays, female downy woodpecker at the suet. Now breathe.

Cats: still three, underfoot at all times.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Palace

Musing about knitting corgis, and who doesn't from time to time, I went in search of corgi-colored yarn in the various places I keep yarn hidden away, and found a lovely cashmere sweater I'd thrifted in order to unravel and use it for other things. Nice heathery pale mix, about right for some kind of dog if not a corgi anyway.

So I took out the sleeves, realized that what was left would be a nice cashmere vest to just wear, no further work required, and started to unravel the sleeves. When all at once I said to myself, self, why are you futzing around knitting cashmere corgis when everyone knows what you need is a nice pair of cashmere socks and here you have the materials right to hand. And I couldn't think of a thing to say back to myself.

And here's the result, cast on yesterday and progressing nicely while I listen to Abba on the CD player, along with Julian of Norwich, quite a contrast, but with some odd parallels.

I post it as a way of guarding against the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. That's the thing that happens when you finish the first of the pair, full of energy and go, and then magically run out of steam when it comes to the second one. But if you've told everyone you're doing this, better chance of finishing the pair.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reflections on being weak....

Pictures of trees reflected in water and sky reflected in water, and bridges reflected in water, anything reflected in water, any time of year are as impossible to resist as snow scenes for me.

So I did Walk Two at the pond today, and just fell for all these lovely scenes, including the bridge I've pictured in here before. This proves that though you can't step into the same river twice, nor take pix of the same bridge twice, you can have a strenuous effort at it! just be glad these aren't vacation movies...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Julian and Me

I like walking meditation, and just got hold of CDs of Julian of Norwich, from the local libe. so it seemed like a good walk on a Fall afternoon, beside the pond, watching fishermen and clouds and reflections, very appropriate for reflecting.

Not an early Christian mosaic, just the result of drought followed by floods followed by drying winds.

This sort of listening, to an early Christian mystic's writings (a woman, though the name would not tell you that) goes well with knitting, too.

And I will get back to knitting my Royals! I have all Kate's body parts, but need to assemble her, and maybe organize some jewelry..and corgis for her grandmother in law, too.

Latest, highly recommended reading: Sarah Vowell's account of Hawaii, "Unfamiliar Fishes" which covers its history, culture, very readable indeed. She spares nobody, and is not only very funny, but very well researched and accurate as a historian.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't just do something --sit there!

This year has wrought a lot of changes, and some of them have been major subtractions from our family's life. I already wrote about how I was going to give Halloween a miss, and HS and I talked about Thanksgiving, well ahead of time, better that way, and what we might like to do this year.

The idea of setting a table here for two, with all the cooking and the sadly missing person was just too hard to manage, so we decided we'd be a lot happier going out for Thanksgiving. HS and I used to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving, back when HP and I were not together, by going out, and it will be nice to revive that this year, for several reasons. And when I had the petcare business, Christmas was one of my busiest days of the entire year, not unusual to work 18 hours straight, so HS agreed very flexibly that we would declare Christmas on a day we could take the time to enjoy it.

Likewise my birthday this year will be a restaurant event, and I don't know what we will do for Christmas this year. Maybe we'll have it on a different day or something. I just feel as if it's better to have a day with no sad echoes in it, at least for this year. And I feel very good about it, interestingly. It's about creating something new, rather than just compensating for what we've lost.

Daily no-stuff is working out too. The utter peace of no television unless I put on a DVD of something I really want to see, no commercials even the polite public tv ones. Radio tuned to the classical music station, no endless, tedious highbrow political discussions. Laundry once a week instead of twice daily. No phone ringing except the rare times my cell goes. These are new subtractions that I savor. Utility bill half the size of what it was when HP's equipment and other needs required a lot of power.

A couple of long-married women friends have asked me if I am nervous alone in the house, and they're surprised that I'm not at all, never have been, even in client houses where I used to stay overnights with pets, in huge mansiony places with grounds and general remoteness. This is a new concept for them, I think, since it's one of the things people ask about right away, as I'm getting used to being single here again.

On the other hand, I've always done things alone, pretty fearlessly, from going to France at age 18, alone, to find a job in order to get my French fluent enough for the very tough degree program I was going to enter several months later. Or when I went away to work at age sixteen, for my summer vacation from school, just to get away somewhere, anywhere! I found that you always make new friends, and being alone isn't at all the same thing as being lonely. I'm looking to make new friends now, as well as nurture old ones, since at this age, friends start to disappear in the course of nature.

Anyway, these are late October thoughts!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Caution: Lions now in residence

The Bookshelf Jungle

and the pride of lions in close up.

I don't know if two constitutes a pride but when a lion tells me she and her feller are too a pride, who am I to dispute the point.

All Gardens Great and Small

October day yesterday, full of color and light and chrysanthemums everywhere.

I love the neighbors who make massive use of tiny spaces.

And indoors, the dish garden in preparation.

The mosses came from right outside the gate, this being a very wet year, no need for much of a search, and they come complete with small wildflowers. The carrot top will make an interesting tree, and there will be other features as it comes together. Today is drenching rain, so it's a good day to do gardening indoors.

The glass cover is a salad server, pressed into service for this purpose. It acts as a terrarium cover, and as a kitty shield, since cat owners know that this sort of miniature setup is a kitty magnet, nearly as good as a dollhouse.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rugged Individual

I was out walking today in the park, and came up behind an older lady, tiny, about 75 lbs if that, pushing a stroller with one hand and with a Lhasa Apso on a leash on the other. I looked into the stroller, as you do, in passing, and there was nobody in it. Odd, she wasn't looking around for a baby, just attending to the dog. And it was a very small stroller, the kind a little kid pushes her doll in.

Walked on, lovely afternoon, thoughts on the art show I'd been at earlier with a good friend, some good watercolors, and the keyboard practice I did this morning, trying to retrieve my piano skills so as to take a better part in our harpsichord and recorder duets, idly noticing soccer players all over the place.

Then on the path outside the park, on the way home, I heard a tiny voice behind me, saying, don't want to make you nervous, but I'm coming through on your left...looked back and there was the tiny lady, with the dog asleep in the stroller, being pushed.

I laughed, and said, ah, the puppy needed a ride? to which she solemnly responded, not a puppy, he's fourteen years old! I explained that to me they're all puppies, and she said, you see, this way he walks until he's tired, then he rides, he gets his exercise I get mine. It all works.

Totally unselfconscious about the figure she and Puppy cut, just a lovely character.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shocks of recognition

Lately I've been noticing faces which remind me of artworks. Not at first, just that vague "where have I seen that face before" type of perception, followed by a sharp thump to the side of the head, when I realize where I've seen it.

A few days ago, at the Recorder Society meeting, I thought the conductor reminded me strongly of medieval art, that long serious face, deep eyes, tall, flowing clothes, fitted in perfectly with her field which is early music. She would have fitted right in with stained glass, too in a cathedral, or an early icon, same features.

Then in the Asian market, today,I was surrounded by classic Chinese and Japanese faces, exactly like those in my Japanese woodblock prints and in early Chinese artforms in ceramics, but these people were checking out food at the counter of a local store.

It reminded me of my surprise at realizing that what I had taken, as a little kid, for great imaginative powers were more an illustration of faces and natural forms familiar to the artist or writer. I used to assume that the toadstools that elves sat on in fairy books, the red ones with white dots, were simply a work of the imagination.

Then, a few years ago, we had a wildly wet summer followed by wonderful fungi in the autumn. There all around the house were fungi in purple, cream, red with white dots, yellow underneath, bronze on top, all the illustrations from fairy books come to life! the only thing missing was the little elf in the green hat.

I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell lately, "What the Dog Saw" to be exact, a collection of essays written for the New Yorker, over a couple of decades, some of them a bit dated now, but all interesting and interestingly analyzed. He has a knack of suggesting, not the answers and the deconstruction of a phenomenon, but the best questions to put to it. This makes not only an interesting writer, but one who triggers other perceptions in his reader, like my studying the faces at the shop today.

The dog in the title is one of the clients of the Dog Whisperer, whose approach is not to enforce his ideas on the dog, but to figure out what the dog is seeing in order to get them working in harmony. I do tend to consider the underdog first in human interactions, too, and see what I can understand of that viewpoint, before arriving at a conclusion.

The Dog Whisperer, however, grew up with a better understanding of dogs than of people and had a shock of recognition when he was advised to treat his wife like an actual human being, not just a useful appliance in his own life, before he lost her. He was so shocked that he realized he had to see What the Wife Saw, as well as what the dog saw! I gather he did manage this, just in time.

But, since I was out shopping for food, I decided life can't be lived on this high plane at all times, since lunch is important, too, and I made this nice crustless spinach quiche, which seasoned blogistas will know is Diane's Passover recipe, but she tells me gentiles can eat it too, and it's not seasonal!

what it is,though, is very good.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A sense of wholeness

I was sitting with an afternoon cup of tea today, idly more or less reading a book of essays by Anna Quindlen, and watching the mourning dove sitting peacefully on the cherry tree branch a few feet away from me outside, and suddenly realized that a sense of wholeness is coming back to me.

It's partly about a lovely October sky, varying shades of soft grey, a true watercolor, and the start of changes in the leaves

though ours are usually quite muted, no brilliant Wisconsin foliage here

partly about the softness of the air and the boldness of the chickadees shouting and eating, and the smell of newly baked food in the kitchen.

and about the late flowers in neighboring gardens

and noticing how on one rosebush there's a new bud, a flower in full bloom and a dying flower. Life in fast forward.

and the red peppers in the garden of the little boy down the street.

But it was also about remembering my life from years ago, before I had to give up being single with my own household, because HPs needs overrode everything for both of us. He no more wanted to share a roof than I did, both being very happy as a couple with large areas of privacy, to the extent of traveling back and forth to each other's homes for years. But we both recognized, nine years ago, that he could no longer manage without constant help. And that started the trajectory for both of us until it ended in August this year.

I'm rediscovering the pleasure of pleasing only me when I cook or go for a walk, or decide to go to a recorder society meeting, or entertain a friend. It's not that he was an obstacle, but rather that the simple presence of another person makes a difference to every move. He wanted very much for me to have a life, even when his nursing needs became more and more pressing, and was joyful when I got an evening out and told him about it when I got home. And yet there's a freedom in singleness that the single understand.

But the other side of it is that there are a lot of firsts: last night was the first time I went to the recorder society without him to come home to. This will be the first Halloween without him. Actually that's a good thing, since I truly hate what people do with Halloween, and will firmly leave the lights out and the door shut this year, honoring my own wishes after years of catering to HPs pleasure in giving candy to kids and seeing their outfits. It's not a carnival, it's a solemn quiet, thoughtful religious time, when we honor the souls of the dead the day before we praise the saved. This year particularly I would like to honor the dead quietly.

And there will be more occasions, like the first birthday unobserved by him in nearly fifty years. There's a reason people say you need a full calendar year to know what you're doing -- we do use the calendar for so many symbolic reasons, that it takes that rebuilding time.

But for the moment, it's just fine. The balance is coming down heavily on the side of joy.