Wednesday, September 24, 2008

distracted by cool


Oh, help me, I am so distracted!

I love fall weather. Apologies to those of you who are mourning the passing of summer... I know it hurts. But I love fall more than any other season. I have a bad case of fall fever this week.

There is much work to be done, but I can't help gazing out the window at the brilliant blue sky, especially whenever a few stray dry leaves blow across the view. I find myself envious of folks in cool climates who already have apples and crunching dry leaves underfoot, and I can't help compulsively checking their blogs and Flickr pages every few minutes to spy on their crisp days while I should be doing something productive.

Most of all I want to knit. Sweaters! Tweedy wool in fall colors! Scarves! All of this while drinking tea and sitting outside somewhere in a snappy breeze that whips my hair and turns my cheeks pink. Want to join me?

There are so many pretty, wooly, silky fall colors in my stash calling out to be knitted. And yet I am stuck with spreadsheets and sundry obligations. Must be patient... sooner or later it will be time to play.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

do i still knit?

What is up with all the not-knitting around here? The distinct lack of knitting content is a direct result of a lack of knitting itself going on around my house. Well, maybe not a lack of knitting altogether, but a pronounced lack of knitting satisfaction.

I was working on a design for a little girlie jumper with some luscious Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Dyed, but that went bust. I thought I'd learn to use the 2-way cast on and knit it from the (invisible) shoulder seams down... that was a mistake.

Then there was my sudden and overwhelming desire to knit a pair of socks with little intricate vining cables all over them, á la Shedir. On my way out the door for a trip, I printed out this pattern from Knitty. All I can say is sick! Evil, twisted and sick! That's my assessment of this unfortunate sock pattern and its four (yes FOUR) cabling charts with their partial repeats and non-memorizable cable designs. After half a dozen rip-outs and do-overs, I gave up on them, and had to spend three whole travel days with no knitting. [shudder]

I did manage to finish a baby sweater recently for a gift, but it was another Super-Natural Stripes, and seeing as how I've knitted one or two (or three) of those in the past, it hardly warranted a photo, let alone a blog post.

So that leaves me with the ongoing saga of the Plum Blouse. This has actually been a great knit. It's always hard for me to spend time working on a knit for myself, when there are so many gifts and design projects that want finishing, so it has proceeded pretty slowly. This is one I'm designing myself, but not for publication, since my notes stink, and I would have serious trouble trying to come up with directions for any size other than my own. Trouble is, I'm stuck. I have everything done except the sleeve finishing, and the collar. And I don't know yet what I want to do with the collar. How fancy should it be? This is a sweet little blouse with girly details, and I'm afraid of getting too girly (or I won't wear it), but I want to be consistent and carry the styling through. So there it sits while I ruminate on it. Got any suggestions?

I'm also feeling the need to get started on Christmas knitting, just as the weather is finallly getting cooler, and sitting down with a big pile of alpaca yarn seems like an okay thing to do. I'm trying to keep my list of holiday knits manageable this year, but there are so many things I want to knit... decisions, decisions.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

viewing pleasure

Today we went to a place we visit all the time, the North Carolina Museum of Art. It was a bit special today, because HWWLLB's parents were with us. I followed them into the European gallery, a section I would never visit on my own, because in my opinion once you've seen a dozen or two hunting portraits, you've seen them all.

But there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me there amidst the portraits in the Spanish section: this photograph.

Thomas Struth's Museo del Prado 5 is a wonderful photo of schoolgirls in front of Velázquez's Las Meninas in the Prado in Madrid. One of my favorite things about this photo is how the viewers of the photograph are reflected in the mirror at the back of Velázquez's painting (where he had intended to reflect viewers of the painting). Struth's view plays so beautifully with all the tricks in the Velázquez. The longer you look, the more you find, and I kept laughing and jumping up and down whenever we noticed another parallel between them, like the girls in funny costumes in both pictures, or the viewer at the edge of the frame in the Struth.

The coolest thing about seeing this photo by chance, is that I once met Thomas Struth by chance in a museum in Budapest several years ago while he was working on this project (the museum photographs series). We were talking in German, and I had recently been living in Vienna and had developed a pretty gnarly Viennese accent. I remember he got annoyed at me because when he asked whether I was from Vienna, I told him no, from North Carolina in the U.S., and he clearly thought I was messing with him and told me he was from Florida (he's actually from Düsseldorf). He didn't tell me his full name (not that I would have recognized it, because I'm just not that hip), and I remember at the time thinking that his project of taking photos inside museums was kind of goofy when he explained it to me. I remember later telling my traveling companion that it sounded like a great way to get your around-the-world trip paid for.

Anyhow, I always remembered that random meeting, though it never occurred to me that I might get to see any of his museum photographs, or that they would be so wonderful. Turns out the guy's a genius! And one of the museum photos is hanging in my very own backwater hometown art museum, to boot. I'd really like to see a larger show of his work some time. But for now, it was a delight to find this photo right under my nose.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


"It is an act of resistance
to abstain from
unimportant conversation
thoughtless communication."

seed head

One thing that I learned about during my recent break is stillness. On a 5-day retreat at the end of the break, I discovered a very deep well of stillness and peace inside myself, something that I really didn't know was there. At the retreat they taught us practices like meditation to access that stillness. I also learned to practice silence, meaning to abstain from speaking for a certain period of time, which could be an hour, a day, or even a few days. I read about someone who pursued a year-long practice of silence. I chose to practice silence for one day.

Before trying this, it was very hard to imagine what it would be like if my mind were less full of distractions. My mind is always full of distractions. Even in yoga class, I am frequently working through a problem, creating a grocery list or fretting over something I might have done wrong.

When I feel lonely, silence is very challenging. In those times I frequently turn on the radio, or chatter at Simon (our cat). I do really enjoy being quiet together with someone I'm close to, like HWWLLB, my sister, or another close friend. It's so wonderful to spend time with someone that is so comfortable, you don't need to fill up the space with sound.

Here's something I wrote in my journal during my day of silence:

"It seems that I can hear a lot more - ambient sounds, as well as what people are saying - and I understand better, maybe because I am listening more simply and not trying to formulate a reaction."

I've found since then that this is a lasting effect. It has become easier for me to listen well to other people, and I think that if I were to practice a day of silence regularly - perhaps once a month - my world would continue to change and deepen this way. I'd really like to try.

What kinds of silence are already present in your life?

(my list):
sleep, and early-morning time
practicing yoga (sometimes)
working in the garden
knitting something very challenging

The coolest thing that I realized in trying this, is that there is this deep well of stillness inside me, and I can reach it in times of chaos and noise, and just be peaceful. I know that this is something I will continue to use and develop throughout my life, to get me through chaotic, stressful, distracting or hectic times, without letting the chaos hurt me, and without dragging others into it as well. The gratitude that I feel for this lesson is something I can't really express with words.

* Quotes in italics come from The Spiritual Activist by Claudia Horwitz.