Sunday, August 02, 2009

Is it August already?

What a strange summer.
It's fall in Chicago in August. Our house is 70 degrees today, tangibly cool, and there's a breeze rifling through the leaves in the trees. The farm near us (a real live farm, not a faux farmer's market with stuff imported from halfway across the country - and it's the last one around here, with all the rest of the land filled with town homes and Office Depots and restaurants) finally has tomatoes in, two days after my mind fully expected them to be there and went down on a special trip in order to make a summer pasta. But you can still tell it's been a cool summer and not our usual hotbox of humidity, still air, and occasional tornadoes.

Some things that I've learned this summer:
  • I can get a whole heck of a lot of weaving done if I stick with plain weave instead of a pattern. Step on the treadle, throw the shuttle from right to left. Step on the opposite treadle to change sheds, beat, throw shuttle from left to right. Continue. Stop occasionally to advance warp or wind bobbins for the shuttle. If I keep this up, I may lose my title as the slowest weaver ever. I produced about two and a half napkins in a weekend, which may be a 500% increase over previous production levels. I am driven by my desire to get this project off the loom so that I can test weaving some samples for making felted yoga bags. My students like mine (from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts) and I am trying to figure out a way to make it semi-affordable to make some for sale.

  • reading poetry is not as bad as drilling a hole into your brain if you stick with Mary Oliver. One of my students brought me a volume as a present, and told me that it was time that I had my own copy. I agree. The first day that I opened it, as I was subbing for a friend whose mother-in-law had just died, I happened upon this poem called Some Questions You Might Ask, which asks the question of why wouldn't animals and trees and nature have a soul. And starts with these lines:

Is the soul solid, like iron?

Or is it tender and breakable, like

the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?

  • listening to a well-read book is a lovely thing to do as you drive. I am working my way through listening to the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, narrated by Jenny Sterlin, who has nailed every voice, especially the plummy Oxford-accented Mary and the dry, world-weary Holmes. Just having finished O Jerusalem, I need to inter-library loan A Letter of Mary next. In the meantime, the third book in the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. Not as dramatic a rendering, but very enjoyable; I never imagined that I would be laughing out loud at a Napoleonic-era sea-going tale of British naval officers.

  • also sustaining me is reading a series of very quirky books. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia de Luce, I love you: the character is a whip-smart eleven year old (I think) and a full-on brain, detective, and lover of chemistry (she has her own laboratory set up in her Victorian home, where she particularly relishes investigating and creating poisons). Full Dark House: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (the first Bryant and May mystery). In this one, set both during the Blitz in London and in the present, you get a Phantom of the Opera type mystery, a wonderful clairvoyant who carries her stuffed cat familiar with her in a cat carrier (the sawdust's leaking out and one eye is missing), and a lovely little witch, along with some good historical writing and characterization. And A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama. Also neo-Victorian and Dickensian, but with another great female adolescent character who's going to wrestle her way into the kind of world she needs instead of letting fate and some nefarious fake seance leaders push her about.

  • also, knitting (though I know that I am beginning to border on the obsessive when I find myself knitting in the dark on the way home from a concert at Grant Park Saturday evening, or leaving my new Interweave Knits in the car so that I can read it between teaching class, or having more than three projects going at once. The good news is that I am trying very, very hard to restrain my desire to buy yarn and try to make do with what I currently own. (That is, until Stitches Midwest in September.) Lately, I've been working on the Fiddlehead Mittens (see the top of the post, in Blue Sky alpaca that I had in my stash - but next time, it's all about wool in a DK weight - maybe Harrisville or Jamieson's); trying to crank out the last section of Vivian (the sweater is now going on several pounds of cabled weight, lying on my lap, as I work my way through adding the sleeves in and beginning decreases for the yoke); a glorious beginning to a Swallowtail shawl in Brooks Farm Acero (this yarn supplier can do no wrong, I think, either in the feel of their yarns or the colorways - if they are at a fiber festival in your area, definitely take at least a skein of the Acero or Solo Silk home to try); and a Turn a Square hat (that's what I worked on before the concert and in the car on the way home, just to see if I could learn to knit in the dark).

I write this as our dog romps around the back yard with his buddy, an American Standard bulldog from across the street. I look out occasionally to find one or the other hauling his buddy around by a jaw flap or while chewing on his neck. Ah, friendship. Oh, and H: Dad just brought pluots (Golden Dappled, he says) home from the store.

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