Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There

This morning I will drop Finn and Lucy off at their day-long program in Brooklyn and head upstate for sesshin. It is always a little (or a lot) nerve-wracking. First there are the many complications of exiting my life for six days and dumping all my responsibilities onto Dan. He is amazingly nice about it. I like to think he benefits in some way from this whole thing but I think it is safe to say that it isn't exactly tit for tat.

Then there is the knowledge that, no matter what happens, I will be different by the end. There is simply no way anyone can sit still for that much time and not change in some. So that's a little scary.

And then there is the mere fact of getting out the door. Last time I forgot my toothbrush and my pajamas. They were patiently sitting on my bed, waiting to get in my bag, but they never did. When I arrived and noticed my lack of toothbrush, I very nearly turned right around. A thought too horrible to imagine. (Ok, imagining people in terrible disasters, homeless people, and all sorts of reasons why someone might go six days without brushing their teeth and feeling very grateful that this is not me right now.) Fortunately, they had extras. This time I decided to pack ahead of time. I know, crazy talk.

Then there is getting up at 3:50 am.

Then there is the anxiety that sitting there doing nothing is doing nothing.

Then there is the fact that now I wear a student robe and can't hide my mistakes behind "hey I am a beginner, what do I know?"

Then there is the fact that I love it. That all the pain, sleeplessness, and yes, anxiety, is a tiny wrinkle in comparison to what happens when you sit still for a good long while.

Yup, I think that about covers it. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dream Large

Filmmaker, Bill Forsyth, will be speaking at Film Forum in NYC this Thursday as part of a retrospective of his work that is showing there. We are all great fans of his, especially his film, Local Hero, which is a film that reminds me so much of my relationship with Newfoundland (only funnier). He made the above short film as part of accepting a lifetime achievement award, in lieu of giving a speech.

Sadly, I will miss seeing him in person because I will be up at Zen Mountain Monastery in sesshin, but I hope Dan, Finn and Lucy will go. Forsyth gets a certain tone exactly right.

As an aside, we just saw the movie In the Loop, which I do highly recommend. After watching a couple of minutes, both Dan and I were saying "Danny!"

Amazing but true...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Taxman Cometh, Even in Canada

Or perhaps, especially in Canada.

This is the first year I have had to file taxes in both Canada and the US. It is very challenging for me, who is not what most would call a numbers-oriented person nor especially organized when it comes to saving receipts (understatement of the year). So I find myself on this beautiful day, when the children are away with their friend, sitting at the table feeling amazed that I have to do this not once a year but, now, twice.

I don't even pretend to vow to be more organized next year. It won't happen.

But I gratefully pay taxes. I love to pay taxes!

So there.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It Helps If Your Friends Are Gorgeous

I am slowly adding some items to my etsy shop after a long hiatus. I had about ten hats that needed photographing and I have several skeins of yarn still waiting their turn in line with the camera. It is hard to start from nothing and fill the shop but I am doing a little each day now.

Check out my stunningly beautiful friends who allowed me to photograph them outside of the Brooklyn Academy of Music yesterday...

Thank you Robin, Sono, Lori and Lizette!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Love/Hat Relationship

This from Carol in response to the hat exchange party post:

The Love-Hat Relationship
by Aaron Belz

I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another's hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial.
You don't necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they're not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.

Pure Luxury

Remember this?

It is a sock kit in which one has a handpainted piece of machine knitting that one unravels as they knit to create a pair of uniquely patterned socks. I made the first sock in the fall, before I had my many months of projects and deadlines. Sock knitting was not on the schedule, not even as subway knitting.

But lo, as the deadlines have turned into memories, I have had the luxury of knitting the second sock.

Fraternal not identical. I think I could have made them a little closer in resemblance but I like fraternal socks.

I am not one of those people who churn out the socks like nobody's business. Cough, cough Helen cough, cough. But I do love wearing handknit socks, which is enough motivation for a pair or two every now and then.

Scanning the horizon, I see that I have a lot planning before we head north and west at the end of May but planning isn't knitting. So I now have the further luxury of deciding what I want to knit next. Yes, I could be, probably should be, knitting for Knitting Sprawl, but in truth, I need a break from art knitting.

I am ready for a little low pressure, this-knitting-will-not-save-the-world kind of knitting.

Hello Stash...anybody home?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Make One, Take One

Sunday afternoon was the closing chapter of House Study/Handmade at Wave Hill. We gathered back in the sunroom, this time surrounded by greenery and flowering trees, not snow.

About 25 people came back for one last hoorah and to participate in the hat exchange. It was a reunion - knitting, spinning reunion. Here everyone sits waiting for the exchange to begin. The plan was to draw numbers from a hat, natch, which corresponded to numbers placed on the hats. Total randomness, total democracy.

Here are the hats in the gorgeous afternoon sun.

Once the exchange began, the wild times started. People loved their hats and didn't love their hats. We had all agreed that, once the exchange was completed and if you didn't love your hat, you could then trade for any that were left on the table.

Let the games begin!

Once the dust settled, everyone had a hat that made them happy and we still had over 20 to donate to a Bronx women's shelter. One of the participants actually volunteers at a shelter and offered to bring them over in time for Mother's Day.

A beautiful end to a lovely project.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Back from Boston, where I was reacquainted with my old accent. How quickly it comes back when I am surrounded by family and others who all speak that way! When I was in college, I worked hard to get rid of that accent. It was the epitome of provincialism to me. Now I hope that a fragment will stay with me, a reminder of being born and raised in Massachusetts. Everything can seem to be so blanded out and plain vanilla - franchised and globalized - that a local accent feels like a little pocket of resistance. But it probably won't last. Already my R's are tightening up, getting clearer, sounding more like an NPR announcer. Blah.

The Unconditional Yes closing party was lovely and low key. I had many comments about how sad it would be to take down the living room installation. People quite enjoyed hanging out in there - the transparent curtains created a space that felt, at once, cozy and available. I was quite sad to go too. It was such a stroke of luck that I connected to this amazing community of women. We all sang songs from the Simmons Songbook of 1935, including such hits as "I Want A Man" and "The Simmons Dump" (apparently a reference to the land that has become Back Bay).

Tomorrow we will have our hat exchange as the final piece of House Study/Handmade over at WH. And then I will have about six weeks of relative quiet before Knitting Sprawl kicks in again.

In amongst all this busyness of the last several months, I have been wondering if it is ok to not want more. To be satisfied. Let's see how this short experiment goes.

That Will to Divest
by Kay Ryan

Meaning: once
you've swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder
not to also
simplify the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to
divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you've begun.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Sad Day in the Beantown Hub

Actually, it isn't a sad day. It is a glorious lovely day.

I just have had that phrase stuck in my mind from about 20 years. It comes from when the first African American ran for mayor of Boston lost to, I believe, Kevin White. His first comment was "it's a sad day in the Beantown Hub." Or maybe I have completely made that up.

In any case, today is the last day of Unconditional Yes. I will be sitting in my living room from noon to 4 p.m. and then we will have a little closing party. The Simmons Choir is coming back for an encore performance.

Do you think I will be able to document this? Guess what I forgot to pack yesterday morning at 6 a.m.?

It's a sad day in the Beantown Hub for forgetful artists.


The first African American to run for mayor of Boston was Mel King in 1983. He ran against Ray Flynn, not Kevin White.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in the Saddle

With many of my duties completed and with a determined effort to ignore the rest, I spent a nice amount of time this weekend hanging with my spinning wheel. My big ol'box of fleece was taunting me each time I passed it on the way to do laundry. "Put down that basket! We are over here!" Eyes straight ahead, I marched past. Steady, cold-hearted even. But by Friday, I started poking around in the box, deciding which of my lovelies would be first.

Oh yes. This was the fleece painted by Moonlightbaker. I am a sucker for green and purple together. I was a little worried that it would end up a brownish grey mess, as can sometime happen if you aren't careful, but chain plying seemed to do the trick. Nice, eh?

What's next?

The carbonized bamboo. I was really curious what a 100% carbonized bamboo yarn would be like. It was not so fun to spin, being rather slippery and fussy. I didn't fill a bobbin but made just enough for an experimental skein. The result is much like a high quality cotton - very soft with no elasticity. I am knitting it into a lacy short scarf. The colour is really lovely but I don't think I will spend more time making 100% skeins: not quite enough bang for the buck. A lesson learned. But I think it could be pretty amazing blended with some merino.

And finally, this.

Superwash BFL painted by Capistrano Fiber Arts. I have never spun superwash before and I have heard less than positive things about it, but this was a dream to spin. Maybe it was because I was just coming off of spinning the bamboo but it felt like I hardly had to even hold it in my hands and it was spinning itself. I am very pleased with how it came out. At 270 yds, it isn't quite enough for a pair of socks, which was my goal. But I happen to know where I can find more.

In addition to these skeins, I have numerous hats ready to put into my etsy shop. They await some lovely models to show off their qualities. I have been looking at my friends with a mercenary eye...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tapioca Dog Buns

Dan has gone over to a wheat-free diet. Since he was a child, he has been told that he tested positive for wheat allergy but he never really did anything about it (his mother may be forgiven for giving up on attempting to make a special diet for him - he is a middle child of six, all born close together. He was lucky he had anything to eat!). Finally in solidarity with one of his brother's attempts to find a solution to a diet issue, he tried a wheat-free diet. Within three days, he was saying things like "I feel alive in my skin for the first time in my life!" and "it is like I am awake now", which I, with my unsurpassable insight, took to mean that not eating wheat was working out for him.

But a wheat-free diet isn't a bowl full of cherries. Well, it is a bowl full of cherries. It isn't a piece of cake. Yes, that's the metaphor I was searching for. Suddenly wheat was everywhere - just waiting to jump out and leap into his mouth. Lucy devised a chart and gave him a daily sticker for remaining wheat-free as extra incentive. He has been doing well with it, motivated by feeling good and, alternately, feeling horrible when he accidently ate something with wheat in it last weekend.

It has been about a month now and the verdict is in: not only is he healthier, he is happier and much nicer to be around.

We have been exploring the world of wheat- and gluten-free substitutes that are available (hence the title of this post...it isn't the name of my new band, sorry). Some are just appalling, such as nearly all the "bread" that is available. But we have found some quite lovely things too.

On Thursday morning, however, I was preparing a large batch of bread dough, full strength wheat-filled bread dough, for sesshin at the Temple this weekend. Dan looked longingly at the lovely ball of dough, gently rising on the table and said, "can I lick the bowl?"

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

There ain't no answer.
There ain't going to be an answer.
There never has been an answer.
That's the answer.
- Gertrude Stein

Dialogue with our neighbor's son late yesterday afternoon as I sat (decadently) spinning in our backyard.

Him: "why isn't that blue?"

Me: "well, there is purple"

Him: "that's not blue!"

Me: "so, you like blue?"

Him: "NO!"

Monday, April 05, 2010

Today is the first day in months and months when I have nothing to do - nothing scheduled, nothing waiting to be done, no deadline pressing. Well, I can easily think of many things I should be doing, but nothing is dire. It is a lovely feeling.

I am a little conflicted about writing about my experience with tangaryo. It feels very private, although I shared it with two other students, our wonderful, strong monitor, and of course, our teacher and the sangha. It was very intimate in a very real way. Perhaps because I have been so busy, I hadn't really developed any notion of what it was "supposed" to be like, so I was surprised at how deeply moving it was. Surprised to find that it does feel like things are different now in some intangible way.

As our teacher said at the beginning of our day of sitting, this is a practice with no edges.

I let go with both hands.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Last Step, First Step

May I add my voice to those who believe that, if America wants to have a viable railroad system (and it damn well should), then it needs to make it, well, viable. I won't bore you with all the discomforts and humiliations that our 12.5 hour trip from Montreal to New York entailed except to say that it was absurdly slow and uncomfortable and it didn't need to be that way.

On the bright side, I did finish two hats and about 1/4 of a sock and 3/4 of a book. Being trapped in Amtrak hell does have some benefits. (Note: the staff were lovely. It wasn't people, it was the whole insanely inefficient, broken down system.)

But home we were late last night and this morning I feel a bit like the Amtrak train actually ran over me on the way to Penn Station. The past two weeks have been pretty wild.

We had a day and a half between Boston and Montreal - just enough time to do some laundry and take some naps. By the way, here is a review of Unconditional Yes in The Boston Globe from March 31st.

In Montreal, we had a day to wander around and then I gave a talk at Concordia University, mainly to the fibre art department. Lisa Vinebaum, one of the professors in that department and my host, gave me a tour of their studios before the talk. Just amazing, all of it. I started to write about what was especially impressive and it was sounding a little too rah-rah, so I will just say that I was very, very impressed by it all. There was some loose talk about trying to put a collaborative project together in the future. There are many hurdles to overcome before something like that could happen but I like that the idea is out there. I believe we could make beautiful music together.

So now a moment to rest my head? Not quite yet.

Tonight I will head over to the Zen center in Brooklyn to begin a weekend of tangaryo. This is the last step before officially becoming a student in the Mountains and Rivers Order and of my teacher. I do wish I was a little less tired but sometimes interesting things happen when you are too tired to fight.

It has been a long process to get to this point and yet it is a very first step. It is actually kind of wonderful to begin my two months of quiet life in this way.