Friday, January 30, 2009

Transcendentalism and 6 other things

Jody over at that which rolls tagged me to share 7 random things about myself and tag 7 other blogs. I just finished the 25 random things note happening at Facebook, so I am feeling in danger of over-sharing. But I like Jody's blog (which you should go read), so I'm going to do it, albeit through a bit of cheating...

1. I identify deeply with the American Transcendentalists movement. I couldn't possibly describe why better than Ralph Waldo Emerson (though I would use non-gendered language, of course):

"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, — master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature."

2. Whew...that was a lot to read, but don't worry, I got the hard stuff out of the way...the rest is pure fluff. So now I will give you some corny pictures of birds (which I can't seem to resist photographing, even though I know it's corny). I think this one is pretty's a Tufted Titmouse (no snickering) flying down to join the cardinals and blue jay below.

3. Another corny bird picture (I told you I was going to cheat a bit)...the Tufted Titmouse landed on T.'s outstretched hand. These birds are very tame. A lot of people visit Mendon Ponds, to hike, feed the birds, and in this weather, ski.

4. You can see more corny bird and nature (and family and chickens and maybe even a few decent actual photographs) pictures at my flickr page (screen name my45thyear).

5. I love making things (you knew that already...more cheating), but it gives me an excuse to show you the scarf and hat I made for my delightful friend Rachael, with a super-creative artist/writer's blog that was one of the inspirations for this here blog. In a swap for the scarf and hat, Rachael gave me the most amazing piece of art. You can get a peek here.

(Knitters...the scarf is Entwined and the hat is Robin's Egg Blue Hat. More details at Ravelry, screen name handcraftedlife.)

6. In fact, I love making things so much that I am making a surprise knitted gift for a completely unsuspecting friend, for no reason whatsoever than to let him/her know that I am thinking of him/her. Do you know who you are?

7. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I have an unusual thing for the serial comma. You don't know what that is? Obviously you didn't read what I said the first time.

Okay, enough of the sidebar I've added a gadget to "Follow me," if you want to follow me through your own blogger page. You can follow publicly or anonymously. I'd love to have you join!

And now for the always...those tagged should not feel obligated to join, and those reading should definitely read the blogs I've tagged!

1.Berlin's Whimsy (beautiful photographs and thoughtful writing)
2.Elemental Stitches (fellow grad. student who does amazing embroidery...her most recent was a mandala)
3.Getting Stitched on the Farm (knitwear designer Kristin Nicholas writes about her process, and her life on a sheep farm in Western's lambing season now...don't miss her pictures and stories)
4.True Stitches (textile artistry at its finest)
5.Pipe Dreams and Purling Plans (knitter, spinner, designer, sustainability advocate)
6.Crunchy Chicken (pushing the green living/sustainability thing to a whole new level)
7. Pistols and Popcorn(just great writing about life in NYC)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gray and more gray

This picture of a remnant of the railway that is now Lehigh Valley Park was supposed to look like the one below, but I rather like the blurred image.

Around here, many have taken to complaining about the weather. It's true, it's been colder than usual, and there's not a lot of sun right now. I had to adjust the exposure on these pictures to keep them from being even more monotone and gray.

But in the light of bad economic news for many and fighting in the Middle East, I've taken a private oath not to complain about these things, because first, I can't control them, and second, I can live with them. (I am aware that some people who deal with SAD can't say the same, and to them I recommend...get a Happy Light, get tested for vitamin D deficiency, try acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Fortunately, these have all had a major impact for T., who used to routinely get SAD in the winter).

And third, complaining about cold and gray weather strikes me as a privilege. If my neighborhood were being bombed, or I had lost my sole means of supporting my family, then I could complain. Instead, I'll cross country ski and try to think of ways to do some little part in healing this world. Any ideas?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chickens and knitting, together at last

This is an organization in the UK...not sure if they're still accepting sweaters, but what a great cause...notice the difference between how the rescued battery hens' feathers look and the pictures I've posted of our own girls previously...

Monday, January 5, 2009

My holiday top 10

I had several scintillating and thought-provoking posts planned over the holidays, with titles such as "In defense of an indulgent Christmas" and "In defense of nose-piercing teenagers," (I guess I was feeling a little defensive!). But if I had written about what was utmost on my mind, the title would have been something like, "It sucks to be sick on vacation." Nothing clever or remotely interesting to be said on that topic. So, let's move on, shall we? Perhaps I can weave in some of my previous thoughts, as I present the highlights.

1. Although this Christmas tree looks perfectly harmless, it was an experience from hell. I blame T., who really didn't want to get a tree and thus brought negative tree karma to the whole situation. We didn't have time until 3 days before Christmas to get the tree (my preference is to put it up in early December). When we got it home, we realized we had inadvertently tossed out our tree stand with last year's tree. We drove out in weather referred to in these parts as a "wintry mix," which sounds rather charming, but is actually a veiled way of saying that there is a sheet of ice on the roadway, to buy a really poor-quality stand. 

We finally got the tree up, with the assistance of DS (Dear Son), just that moment returned from college. It was pretty for about a week. Then, the morning of Dec. 26, when I was home alone, unable to rouse myself from bed due to aforementioned unpleasantries, I heard a HUGE CRASH. I was a little afraid to come downstairs, but when I did, the tree was on its side. It was thoughtful enough to land strategically between the computer and the printer, thus causing no damage and breaking no ormanents. So, it could have been worse.

2. There were multiple knitting incidents in the conservatory at Highland Park. Highly recommended.

3. There were multiple hand-knit gifts, partly as an outcome of aforementioned knitting incidents. I made the beret below for DD (Darling Daughter), which is the Raisin Beret. Fun pattern. T. made the matching seed stitch scarf. (Cute girl, too, right?) This picture is before the nose-piercing, which I think looks great on her. (Note to parents of teens--don't sweat the body art...there's a lot of other stuff to worry about when they're this age. Save your energy. You're going to need it.)

And I made this hat for DS, aptly named A Very Plain Hat (available to Ravelers here.) Again, a recommended pattern.

And there were creatures peeking out of stockings (again, available to Ravelers here.)

4. There was joy for all of us that DD got into her first choice college.

5. And joy for her upon reading her gift certificate for a brand new trumpet to take to college.

6. There was a quiet Solstice celebration for T. and me. We used to celebrate with the kids, but it's incompatible with being between the ages of 18-21 (and perhaps older...who knows?).

7. There was cross-country skiing at Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center.

This picture is somewhat misleading. Although for much of the time Zoe did indeed trot along beside us, I was unable to get a picture of two of the most entertaining happenings.  First, we were all trotting along...actually, Zoe was trotting, T. was gliding, and I was...plodding, but happily so. When along comes a man and his dog, engaged in something called Skijoring.

Zoe, all 8 pounds of her, thought that this was her cue to race.  She disappeared, and returned very shortly, having obviously been outstripped.

Then there was the time I fell on a very minor downhill (which won't happen again, since I took a lesson and now think I am quite as good a skier as I need to be, thank you very much).  As a very advanced skier was going by, he yelled, "Hey, good thing you have a rescue dog!"  Ha ha.

8. There was indeed indulgence.  I must say that, besides stockings (which are events unto themselves, but contained mostly items that are edible, practical--think socks and underwear, or handmade), the gifts you see under the tree above are all that we had. But you already heard about DD's gift, and if you have a musician in the family, you know about the cost of instruments.  And DS' big gift was similarly music-related.  And  mine...ah...also education-related...a Kindle.  The plan is that it will make it much easier for me to read the many articles I need to read for my doctoral research, without needing to print them out and thus use tons of paper.  But since I've been on a little break from school, I discovered that it's also very useful for downloading knitting patterns and keeping track of where I am and what modifications I've made.

And after some guilt...after all, I'm supposed to be about sustainability and simplicity, right?...I've decided to embrace the seasonal indulgence.  And the book, The Battle for Christmas, helped me justify it, by talking about the history of Christmas as a traditional season of excess and partying.  Since my idea of excess is generally a glass of wine once a month, the occasional specialty coffee, or watching The L Word at Equal Grounds, I've decided I can still live with myself.

9.  And yet, there was simplicity, specifically,  Epicurean Simplicity.  A highly recommended Stephanie Mills is to prose as Mary Oliver is to poetry.  She would likely shudder at the very thought of a Kindle, but she is never holier-than-thou, recognizing that while it's important to live a life with the least environmental impacts as possible, we all make trade-offs.

10.  And there were several lovely gatherings with dear friends, though I missed a rousing game of Bananagram because I was in bed (did I mention I was sick most of vacation?)?

All in all, though, I am remembering how very lucky I am, and hoping 2009 brings still more presence and grace into my life and into the world.


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