Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Poncho Out of Season

I've never owned a poncho before. The ponchos of my youth were brown, nubbly things with unsightly fringe. Not at all attractive. And besides, how would you do things, like ride a bike or climb a tree, with your arms trapped underneath an acre of crotcheted acrylic. Fast forward a few decades to the two recent winters I spent working at home, where, too lazy to start a fire in the wood stove, I would pile on sweaters and blankets. I started to think a poncho might not be such an impractical garment after all. Then, while I was working on my quilt of red concentric (consquaretric?) squares last year, I started dreaming of more red squares—knitted ones.

In late winter, I found myself free for an afternoon in Belfast, Maine, after a friend I'd planned to meet up with had to deal with a houseful of sick kids. So of course I made my way to Heavenly Yarns, in its new, upstairs, airy location, and set about searching for the right yarn. I didn't yet have a pattern, but I knew what I wanted—mitered squares, knitted together (no sewing!). And I wanted red, or mostly red, with some other colors, because just one color would never do. And I wanted worsted weight (no more lace weight, not for a while).

I found some almost just-right yarn, in shades of red, purple, and blue, and picked up four skeins. But there was also a turquoise-to-teal colorway that I found irresistible, so I took two skeins of that. To drag the whole thing back toward the warm end of the spectrum, I added two skeins of red-magenta-pink-peach. When I got home, I found the perfect pattern online, and after I cleared the decks of other projects (a certain hat, and another hat), I got started.

The pattern is extremely easy to follow, the mitered squares knit up a dream and don't require any counting of rows and only one purl row to every three knit rows. Yet the stitch work is varied just enough that, along with the suspense of wondering how the colors will come out, it keeps things interesting. I also learned some new knitting skills: picking up stitches (which I've been doing wrong for 20 years), three-needle bindoff, attached i-cord. The whole thing went together much more quickly than I expected (due, in part, to watching a lot more TV than usual; there are a lot of murder mysteries knitted into this project), but not fast enough. I finished it on the second day of summer, a bit late for wearing woolens. 

It also makes a useful headdress.
Fortunately, we had plans to go to the movies that night, and since movie theaters are cold in all seasons of the year, I got to wear the poncho, and I loved it! It's all the best parts of a sweater—warm and wooly—without any constricting arm holes or cuffs, no annoying buttons or zippers. It's like a blanket you can wear. I can't believe I've never thought of making—and wearing—a poncho before!

Ravelry notes, such as they are, are here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It Goes By So Fast

Eighteen years ago I held my first child in my arms. Approaching his one-month birthday, he was holding his head up and his eyes had cleared from milky newborn blue to bright, sparkling sapphire. Everything about him seemed longer, stronger, and less babyish. I turned to my husband and cried, "He's growing up so fast!"

I had no idea.

That baby graduated from high school last Friday. I spent the morning, when I should have been getting ready for work, searching through photo albums for his first-day-of-preschool picture. I remembered it so clearly: his lime-green Oscar the Grouch sweatshirt and the faded red Australia baseball cap that he never took off. How enormous his mini backpack appeared. How tiny he looked walking up to the school's red front door (that part I misremembered—the door was gray). How full of hopes and dreams and possibilities I was. How both nervous and eager to learn he was.

I'm not going to say it seemed like yesterday, but damn if those fifteen years didn't fly by. Which is not to say there weren't interminably slow times—that year I had two infants and a four-year-old, which is shrouded in a fog of exhaustion; age eleven (or was it nine?), when my sweet boy became a sassy know-it-all; the hour-and-half betwen 6:30 and 8:00 p.m., which lasts a lifetime when you have young children.

I finally tracked down the album with the photo I sought and went outside to take its corollary—the last day of high school. I wished him well, watched him drive out of the driveway, and burst into tears. My baby had grown up so fast!

That evening, after a comedy of errors trying to get everyone to the Civic Center on time, I watched that baby march across the stage and receive his diploma, now a self-assured and self-aware young man, and one of the most content people I know, ready and eager to move onto the next stage. I didn't cry—I'd released all my tears that morning. I didn't feel sad or nostalgic or wistful. I felt happy and proud and full of love for this man, that baby, that little boy.

This post went out last week to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. You can subscribe here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nature Journaling Workshop ~ Wildflowers

I'm offering a nature journaling workshop with a focus on wildflowers at Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden, Maine on Saturday, June 29. We'll cover the basics of nature journaling and then head out into the field in search of spring blossoms, which we'll sketch, observe, and write about.

Registration information here. (I know it says the class goes for 1 week, but it's really 1 day.)

I hope you can join me!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On My Nightstand ~ May 2019

A new series to replace the monthly Reads.

I love the question, when an author is being interviewed, of "what's on your nightstand?" Since I'm not likely to be asked that question any time soon, I thought I'd take it upon myself to do a monthly nightstand roundup, which will provide me with motivation to dust and organize my bedside reading once a month. 

Several of the books on my bedside table right now are aspirational. In an ideal world, I'd have time in the morning to read the day's entry from Mary Holland's Naturally Curious Day By Day and a poem or two from the book of poetry I keep bedside—right now it'sBalancing Act 2, an anthology of Maine women poets. Unfortunately, it's not an ideal world and I've barely cracked the cover of either this spring, but I have great hopes for the summer. I also have a back issue of Poets & Writers magazine at the bottom of the stack, and I have great ambitions of finishing reading it.

Another book I'd imagined dipping into a little each day is Edwin Way Teale's North With the Spring. I started at the Equinox and now here it is nearly June and I'm still in Florida (in this installment of four seasonal volumes, Teale and his wife start in the Everglades and drive 17,000 miles as they follow the northward migration of the season). I love Teale's quiet, gentle observations of the land and the people he meets. 

I expected Dreyer's English to be another read-a-bit-here-and-there type of book, but it turned out to be a page turner. I'm not kidding. You might think a book about grammar and usage would be dry, but the only thing dry about the book, other than the author's name, is his wit. It's laugh-out-loud funny, as M, who was sitting near me as I was reading and giggling, can attest. 

Notice how all the new books (and magazine) have black covers? It must be the trend this year. My only complaint: black book covers make it a little too plain that a room is in need of dusting.
Of course I have Elizabeth Peters on the shelf—Borrower of the Night, the first of the Vicky Bliss series. It makes perfect before-bed reading, because I can read a page or two and even stop in the middle of a sentence when I get too tired to read (which happens far too often these days) without worrying about what's going to happen next, sine I read it recently, and I know everything will turn out just fine in the end.

Finally, in the foreground, is a novel by my friend Dave Patterson, Soon the Light Will Be Perfect. The cover of this book is so gorgeous it hardly matters what's inside. I've been admiring it on my nightstand for the better part of a month while I finished up book club reads and then rested up from those reads. I finally cracked it open this week and I was hooked from the first line. It's a coming-of-age story of a young boy in Vermont in the early 1990s whose mother gets cancer and whose father loses his job. Dave's writing is fast-paced and direct, and his narrator is a confused, somewhat troublesome, and endearing kid. 

What's on your nightstand this month?

This post went out last week to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. You can subscribe here.
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