Monday, October 29, 2018

What We Must Survive - and Fight

This week we've had to confront the violence and racism that the current administration of this country has allowed to flourish and I'm left queasy, anxious, furious and heartbroken.  And more determined than ever to make a change.  
This past week has reached a new epitome of horror: two Americans were randomly shot in the street because the shooter, driven by racial hatred, couldn’t get into a church to slay even more; eleven Americans were shot in their place of worship; over a dozen political opponents of the president were threatened with mail-bombs. And yes, I am looking at the Republican leadership. They refuse to condemn the racist, anti-Semitic, violence-encouraging words and actions of their president, who unapologetically speaks the lingo and code-words of the white supremacists. The Republicans won't condemn  and therefore, they condone; they must own them.
Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan, Lyndsey Graham, Jeff Flake, a hundred others -- all could step up and take a stand against Mr Trump's tacit support of this radical, anarchist behavior.  I understand that their leader won't pay attention to them, but the Republican leaders must stand up and speak to the American people; they must re-assure us that this violence and hatred is not the America they seek -- or is it?  Republican leaders bear the responsibility to restore a tone of civility in public life; they must re-affirm that in a democracy we can have differences of opinion, of religion, of skin tone, of heritage and not fear for our lives.  
If they can't do that. for whatever reason, we must vote them out.
We must vote; we must vote like our lives depend on it. Because it does. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Knitting to Survive

The BlueWave Cowl Project continues - it keeps my fingers busy between bouts of postcard-writing and chills my mind. Yes, they are technically hats -- but the top one in the first photo began as a cowl. Though between the gauge and the yarn (Chickadee from Quince) it wasn't working out. So I tightened it up a bit and made a hat. And then I liked it enough that I decided to improve on the model ... so now I have two very similar hats. Hmmm.  And yes, I've started another one. What, you ask, will I do with three very similar Blue Wave Cowl-Hats? I do have a plan, dear readers, I do. More to be revealed.....

Saturday, September 29, 2018

What We Do, Ocean Version

It feels like we are living in a culture spiraling through retrograde. We fight and we fume against the injustices that are piling up; it's exhausting.  Sometimes we need to take a break from the endless cycles of outrage and fury. Because we have to be in this for the long haul.

 So - out to the coast to let ocean waves drown my fulminating thoughts. This fall day is a mix of distinct patches of cold and hot, like cold milk poured into a tall glass of hot coffee, before the stirring. A sweep of hot sun, then a whisk of brisk, cold air; golden light on the hillsides and dark, damp shadows under the trees. 

In Northern California, fall is not a gaudy season that clobbers the eyeballs; one has to learn to recognize it, to feel it in the softening air. There's a brittle dampness to the morning fog, a certain depth of blue in clear skis, then a dense ceiling of moisture-laden clouds.  There's a  splash of yellow along  a short row of birches, a carpet of gold under a ginko tree.  Perhaps a maple flaunts orange and red here and there, but for the most part, it’s a subdued season, the fields cropped down to dusty greyish dirt, oak leaves browned and compacted into slippery layers, a faint dust raising underfoot. The hillsides are dun-colored and scrubby, exhausted after the golden riot of summer’s end. And fires have left their black scars in pitches and patches, in ditches and dells, along roadsides, across vales, over slopes. 

Just past noon, I pull into the parking lot at North Beach in Pt Reyes National Seashore. This is the closest and wildest of the beaches along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard – not the more famous North Beach district in SF. The smell of ocean rushes my opened window, fishy but fresh.  Yellowish scum smudges the break lines of the waves, crab guts, perhaps -- or who knows? The sand is about 60-grit, a dermabrasion on the soles of my bare feet as I walk. I welcome the dermabrasion of my mind, too, as the waves pound and the wind skates along the shore. Snarls and coils of kelp, speckled with tiny black flies. Grey skies and grey ocean, but still a commanding brightness.  

Walking on the loose sand buckles my knees; walking along the wet sand chills my feet. Waves boom and thrash. Fast waves catch my lazy feet, soak the hems of my pants. I sit on a windchuffed log, and shove my feet deep into the grainy sand for warmth. Behind me, the ochre dunes are runneled by water and wind, capped by ice plants, splotchy with a brickish red.  Pelicans trace the leylines along the shore, first up, then down, gliding imperturbably - somehow prehistorically smug. Groups of plovers flash up the shore, swirl and swivel around as one and continue on, black sides, white sides, flicking, flickering.

Here, in the boom and thrash of wave, a kind of silence sits, a caesura between these days.  
So needed.

Because tomorrow, we'll be right back at it.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

This Is What We Do

This is what we do in the Age of TRE45ON, in the era of # MeToo, in the time of climate change denial, of immigration-betrayal. We no longer laugh when our spouse makes an insensitive joke. We refuse to engage with in-laws who defend the traitor. We rage under our breath, remembering what has been done to our country already;  we rant and rave and fight the urge to throw dishes around, seeing the patterns of betrayal and deceit begin to form in the indictments and guilty pleas from known, close associates. There is a fury just under the surface, built upon the sense of betrayal, of having been cheated. 
       So I feed the wild birds, because they don’t care who betrayed whom, what political system is in power, what laws have been broken. They just need their seeds. I walk under trees, beside rivers, along the ocean, knowing that they have survived, hoping they will continue to survive us.  I’ve phone-banked, text-banked, written letters to the editor. I've been writing GOTV postcards to fellow Dems, encouraging us to make our voices heard, to exercise our right to vote.  And tall along, to steady my breath and calm my soul, to keep the rage from damaging my heart, I’ve been knitting, knitting, in a rather compulsive manner, a series I call the Blue Wave Cowls. (Well , yes, sometimes they become hats, if the gauge is a bit off. ) Some of the first cowls went to my sister, including a large, broken-rib cowl in a design from Purl SoHo  that I knit in Madelaine Tosh Undergrowth worsted weight. A long, cushy tunnel of warmth and blue-yarn comfort. And Blue Wave inspiration.
         My most recent cowl is also this broken rib, aka mistake rib, pattern, though I think of it as "elegant rib"  for its ultimate appearance. It's a pattern of k2, p2, offset by one stitch on the second row, repeated until the cowl is the right size or you run out of patience, whichever come first. It's the simplicity that is striking.
         For this cowl, I’m using Drift from Shibui Knits,  a merino-cashmere blend that is just luscious to the touch.  I had a rough start – I began with size 7 circular needles per the pattern but decided early on that it looked too tight and constricted – I wanted a looser look, something that would drape, not hug, the neck.  So I slipped it off the needles, and recast onto some circular 8’s, (which was suggested by the yarn tag, I read later - heh, heh).
          But I had the devil of a time getting the right number of stitches this time around, first casting on too many which I knew would end badly, being too big, too full, and then, for some reason, casting on too few.  I tried to fudge and add a few stitches at the end, but I could never get the count quite right.  I must have ripped out my restart three or four times. I lost count. Finally,  I got the right number of stitches cast on and had knit a stabilizing row just to be sure, but now, somehow, I mis-remembered the pattern and began simply alternating one knit and one purl stitches, offsetting by one stitch on the second row. After about 5 rows, I’m thinking this does not look right --- and how, by the way,  is this any different than seed stitch?   I checked the pattern and slapped my forehead: Jeeze Louise - it wasn’t any different because it was seed stitch.  So I had to once again rip out the rows, though this time, after all the frustrations of casting on, I took the time to get it back to the stabilizing row, and using a size 3 circ needles, pick up all the stitches – and start all over – correctly. So now I am forging onward, full speed ahead, with size 8 circular needles, 144 stiches in the round, with the correct k2, p2 pattern, offset by one stitch on the second row . It’s looking pretty solid, even if not yet elegant,  and on a good day I can get a half- inch or so done, stitch by stitch. Just like postcard by postcard, vote by vote, we will bring this crooked administration down.

Friday, August 3, 2018

This Is How You Know

This is how you know Fire Season has arrived in Northern California. The smell of smoke, faint but unmistakable, drifts through the open window, rousing you from a fitful early morning sleep. The slanted light of morning and late afternoon bends towards the red end of the spectrum - pinkish dappled light on the yellow walls of the house next door; red streaks along the horizon at sunrise, at sunset; a blood-orange full moon rising over a quiet, darkened town. Muggy haze, grimy clouds. A gritty grey layer on the outdoor tables that is more felt than seen; gritty ash on your car that accumulates day after day. Cars and trucks arrive in town streaked with yellow-ochre ash thick enough to write in, windshields wiped clean in wide arcs of surprise. Caravans of dusty stock trailers go by, horse hooves stomping at the stop lights. Mini-vans stuffed to the gills with all manner of items, flattened pillows against the glass, boxes shoved hastily into the back. Coughing begins when you take a deep breath; eyes sting and water. In coffee-shops, phone-photos are shared: glimpses of flames along the escape roads, flames racing over the hills, trees lit up like giant candles, blankets of smoke clutching the fields, choking the roads,  a parting shot of the house as they leave, not knowing what they will find or when they will find it. Meanwhile, you notice towers of billowing smokes plumes on the horizon or are covered by thickened ceilings of ashy smokeclouds, no horizon in sight. Planes and copters sound overhead - steady droning flights heading out for nearby fires. You listen for the Nixle alerts, you check online - how close, how fierce, what is the suspected pathway, the line of fight, who do you know might be in it, who do you know who might need to get out of it, who do you know might need a place to stay, who might need new furniture, clothes, dishes, who might need a new house. This is how you know.

There is a full moon there, that orangey little dot next to the house.