Category Archives: Philosophical musings

Peace in our time

I am wishing and hoping for peace on earth, as always.



Since that may not happen quite yet, I am also wishing you and yours peace and joy in your corner of the earth.


Flurries on my blog, courtesy of WordPress (I love it when they do this!).

And flurries outside.  (Hmm.  I may not love those so much.  Still, it IS December now, so I need to suck it up, I guess.)

The rain and open water of a few days ago are a memory, courtesy of a 20 degree F drop in temperature.  Winter coats are retrieved from storage, as are all the accoutrements.  (Though the RockStar — teen daughter — and the Gothlet are strenuously resisting frostbite-inducing reality, in the way of adolescents.  What is up with that?  It’s almost universal at their age, though.)

I went outside to photograph a shawl which actually didn’t make it into the Shawl-apalooza blog post (so that should have been SIX shawls and two socks! — silly me).  I had put this aside temporarily for other projects that needed to be finished, and now am happily working on it again, so needed to document progress: for my project page on Ravelry and for you!

This is the Aestlight Shawl designed by Gudrun Johnston, a Shetland-style garter stitch shawl.  I am knitting it from gorgeous Damselfly YarnsSterling Sheep yarn (a blend of superwash merino, silk, nylon and silver).  The colorway is called ‘Prospero’s Sea’, which is so very apt.   After seeing the yarn sparkle in the summer sun, back in warmer times when I began the shawl (and being a long long way from Prospero’s or any other sea), I dubbed my version of the shawl “Dawn at the Lake”.

And in taking the first two photos above, I found little bits of sparkles, besides those silver sparkles in the shawl; even though the sun is hiding at the moment.

It’s very pretty, fluffy and snowflake-y snow.  Though cold.

The hackberry above and mystery plant below are remembering warmer days of yore, I think.

Maybe it’s just my memory, or maybe it’s that winter is so long here, but it seems to me that all the deaths in my family happen in the winter.

Today, very shortly, I leave for a quick back and forth trip to the Twin Cities for my uncle’s funeral.

Our lives are as ephemeral as snowflakes, aren’t they? in the bigger picture.

Do you remember the Little Prince learning the word ‘ephemeral’?  Right now, that scene makes me pretty misty.  (Not that “The Little Prince” doesn’t do that all by itself.)  A quote from the author of “Le Petit Prince”,  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, therefore seems especially appropriate:

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.

An Excellent Day for a Day Off

At least for an Indoors Day Off.  (It is above zero F, granted.)

I cut back a little at work as of the first of the year; meaning I have two days off each month.  Though I’ve already seen the results in my paycheck (dang!), this is the first day off I’ve enjoyed.  It was chosen related to work needs, so it was pure happenstance that it will allow me to watch the United States Presidential Inauguration: the first I will have ever seen.

Cleaning (a good thing to do on a day of a new start) is also on the agenda.  And a trip to the post office.  Of course, daughter things when they get home from school (it’s a big dance day).

But here’s the important decision of the day:

What to knit during the Inauguration?  Yesterday, I was working on my third Preemie hat, as a nod to a service project for Martin Luther King Day.  But today, I want to knit something I will keep myself and think, “I knit that then.”  Commemorative knitting:  doesn’t everyone do that?  

And I’ve just come to a decision, so I’ll share it with you all.

Remember my Moebius scarf of not long ago?

 moebius-self-portrait  moebius-warms-my-ears  

Do you remember the backstory?  After the election, Cat Bordhi cast on a Moebius for Transition, for healing and coming together.  I had been planning a Moebius scarf with this yarn, and the idea appealed to me.  I have been wearing it in different configurations; it’s one of my favorites.

I have leftover yarn, both the semi-solid burgundy yarn I used for the I-cord edging and the slowly striping yarn of the scarf itself.  And I have been plotting to make a coordinating (though not matching) hat.  In fact, I cast on last week in an ongoing attack of startitis.

It struck me that the pattern of the hat I picked is symbolically rich for a worthy project for today:


(Yes, I realize this is not a coronation, even though the tone today sounds a little like that!  And though the popular sentiment WAS to crown George Washington king, back in the infancy of our country.)

Oh, I suppose there’s a nod to the anointing of  a leader, but being more knitting-oriented than that, I’m thinking about the braid uniting several disparate elements together: not melded into a homogenous whole, but creating something more — more beautiful and strong, out of the single elements.  And the gorgeous colors that will happen on the hat itself:  again, bringing together, harmonizing, but not pureeing the colors.  All in the form of a practical project that will keep me warm and see plenty of use.  But Beauty and Utility are not mutually exclusive, thank goodness.

I just have a couple cable crossings of the braid done: and lots of laundry and cleaning to get going.  But later today, I will be sitting down with my needles and Twisted yarn and watching our next president be sworn in.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you the progress (aka commemorative knitting).  I’m sure many of you will have stories to share as well.

Y is for Yule


(Last year’s photo, ‘oil painting’ style — but this year’s wreath looks just like this again now.  6 – 10 more inches of the “S” word expected today and tomorrow!)

I use the word “Yule” and not “Christmas” very advisedly.  To me, Christmas is church, the beautiful, serious but hopeful Christmas cantata we’re singing at the Christmas Eve service, and the beginning of the church year with marking this religious event (though truly a hugely less important event, theologically, than Easter in the Christian church).

No, Yule is the whole package.  Did you know Yule was a pagan solstice ceremony that got folded up with Christmas later, just as (almost certainly) the date of Christmas was identified with a previously existing Roman solstice celebration? 

Follow the link above to the Wiki article — it’s interesting.  Yule traditions that have become widespread include evergreens and “Christmas” trees, gift-giving, and celebrating and feasting with family and friends around the winter solstice.  Most of us are no longer sacrificing our own animals, I suppose, but certainly many turkeys, pigs and beef cattle are finding their way to our holiday tables.  (Which always reminds me of the Lou & Peter Berryman existential angst Christmas song, “Big Dead Bird”:  first two verses:

The liquor stores are empty, the car won’t start
The Christmas decorations are falling apart
The temperature is dropping, the sky is grey
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

Papa’s nerves get frazzled, & wearing thin
Mama in her wisdom gets drunk on gin
The kids go build a roadblock for Santa’s sleigh
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

I love the Berrymans.)

So:  I am using Yule as a metaphor for the entire holiday season, regardless of any religious affiliation (and justifying this by the solstice origin of Yule and the fact that when you Google Yule currently, many of the results that come up are neo-pagan!).  The short days and long nights, the snow on the ground (up here, anyway) covering up the brown and gray, the feeling of anticipation, the baking and cooking, high-calorie but delicious treats everywhere, the plans to be with friends and families, the parties and concerts and events and open houses, winter plays, naturally the Nutcracker Ballet around here, and also naturally (around here) holiday gift knitting.

I get stressed at times, because it all seems to fall on me at my house, between two children who developmentally don’t seem to be able to think beyond the next twelve hours, and a husband who is not much into holidays or ‘traditions’.  Add to that a job that’s really more than full time right now, and the Nutcracker which always consumes a huge amount of energy this week in particular. But over years, I have realized that it will be what it will be, and the most important thing about Yule is celebrating it with the people who are important to you.  The traditions are fun, but family — whether genetic or ‘found’ family — is what makes this Yule season truly a celebration.

So, this winter solstice and Yule, stay warm with your family and friends.  Celebrate the return of the light and longer days.  Don’t stress (any more than absolutely necessary).  And if you’re in the area: feel free to stop by my house.  I’m not guaranteeing when the tree will be up, or that the floor will be clear . . . but hey, the evergreen wreaths are on the front stairposts, a symbol of the ‘wheel of the sun’, apparently!


I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quotation I happened upon while Googling Yule, serendipitously enough.  This is taken from a salutation to a friend by Fra Giovanni, written on Christmas Eve 1513, and found here.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

Thanks to all, and yarn for a few!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to wish me a happy birthday and to share their favorite quotes, poems, songs, and more.   Thank you!  I had such fun reading them all!

And thank you to the random number sequencer for picking out my lucky winners in the Birthday Blog Contest!

Kathryn, Becky and Gladys all were selected by the randomness inherent in atmospheric noise to receive some lovely yarn.  (The multiple mathematicians who apparently stop by my blog should appreciate that link.)  I’ll show you what they won a little later this week, when I’ve picked out some very special yarn.

Let me highlight their words of wisdom:


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute,
and it seems like an hour.
Sit with a pretty girl for an hour,
and it seems like a minute.
That's relativity."
                        -- Albert Einstein


"Victory will never be found
by taking the path of least resistance."
                         --Winston Churchill 

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task,
but it is my chief duty
to accomplish small tasks
as if they were great and noble."
                         --Helen Keller 

"The greater part
of our happiness or misery
depends on our dispositions,
and not our circumstances."
                      --Martha Washington


Something I learned a couple of decades ago,
but still have to remember at times,
is to live -- and make decisions --
with no regrets. This means that I
try (not always successfully)
to look forward and see
if I might regret the action
that I'm about to take.
This doesn't always work at yarn sales. :-)

Words of wisdom in truth, all of them.

Especially the one about yarn sales.  Sigh.

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! (Birthday Gifts and Prizes)

Hey, it scans!  Try singing it yourself (“Celebration” (YouTube link, Kool & the Gang): gotta sing the bass part too, at least in your head).

As I mentioned yesterday, today is my birthday, which this year falls on Thanksgiving here in the United States, as it does, oh, an average of every seven years, I suppose.  (Though it’s not evenly distributed due to Leap Years. )

Which gives a special opportunity for me to indulge in Philosophical Musings.  I promise I’ll be brief in the musing part.  And there is a Birthday Blog Contest at the end, also!  After lots of pictures, admittedly.

Last year, my birthday wasn’t quite the way I would have liked it in an ideal world.  It’s not that I expect red carpets rolled out, paeans of laud where’er I go, and gifts rained down like manna from heaven (having children certainly cures you of any birthday-centric focus like that real soon).  BUT — I do like to spend my birthday with my family and with the gift of time to do a little of what I want, which is truly a gift because I rarely have that luxury, being a working mom with a busy family.  Last year, due to work craziness, I didn’t take my birthday off, which I usually do as a gift to myself.  Then it was a very busy day for the rest of the family with dance and Nutcracker etc, so we didn’t even have time to eat dinner together.  And I woke up with one of my 10/10 migraines. Wah, wah, wah.  We marked the occasion on a different day, but last year was just kind of a footnote.

Well, this year I automatically had my birthday off work!  There’s a good start.  And I and my family WILL be having dinner together!  EXCELLENT!  There are two of my birthday wishes already granted right there.  I may not have total leeway to do what I want, due to family stuff, but that’s OK (I have an evil plan related to that constraint).

Now, having your birthday on Thanksgiving makes you even more reflective.  I have been reading Nora‘s excellent series this week about thankfulness.  She and I are at very similar points in our lives.  (We need to meet up at some point, being at opposite sides of the same state, but the one time we could have — she ended up too busy with mom stuff.  I can totally resonate!)  Please go read her post from today, (it won’t take but a moment; then, if you have a bit of time, read the prior three entries in her “Week of Thanks”, partly because she expresses so well what I feel also).

We get gifts on our birthday, traditionally.

At Thanksgiving, we are encouraged to reflect on what we’re grateful for.

Well, it is so evident to me that the gifts that I am grateful for, on my birthday and always, are not primarily the tangible gifts that my family and friends give me (the love and affection behind those is what make them the most special, and how they put a lot of thought into picking out something they know I’d love and use).

I suppose that the first birthday gift is the gift of life, of being here to experience all of this wonder and joy, and to give back.

The second birthday gift that I am grateful for is the gift of family.  Here’s mine, this summer.  (I’d like to say that my husband was taking the picture, but he was off doing a music thing.  Imagine a guy in his early 50s with longish brown hair, sunglasses and a slightly sardonic expression, probably dressed in a black shirt and jeans.  Good-looking, oh, yes.)


From left to right, The RockStar (my now 13-year-old daughter), me, the Gothlet (my 10-year-old daughter) in front with my brother behind her, his lovely wife at his side, my mother in front on the right, and my father on the far right.

This alone is so precious a gift.  And one I can’t keep shut away.   People change with every passing day, and our family will change too.  So I will cherish it, on my birthday and daily, and I will try to remember that when my teenager is testing me.

Oof.  I’m going to get maudlin.  And Nora said it all already, so well.  So let me just show-and-tell you quickly a sampling of the gifts that I already have, that I am especially, mindfully grateful for on my birthday:



and Friends (Knitting and Non)


Learning New Things




and Lap Cats



(The RockStar, of course)

and Dance


(both of my daughters are in there with the Degas-style Dancers)

and the heedless, needless beauty that is all around us, earth,



and sky.



(Last winter’s lunar eclipse, reflecting my heart beating as the camera was steadied on my chest.)

So, with all this gratitude and giftiness going around, I’d like to share.

Announcing the second annual Words of Wisdom Birthday Blog Contest!

(Now, if you know me, the “Wisdom” part is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.)

Please leave, as a comment on this post (and if you accidentally leave it on another post, I’ll try to incorporate it too, but this is the Official Birthday Blog Contest Post):

A favorite quotation, poem, motto, song (with a message that you like), family saying, anything that is a personal favorite.  If it’s about gifts, birthdays, November, family, that’s wonderful — but it can be about ANYTHING.  Funny is great!

And, although I said yesterday “winner’ in the singular, “One is the Loneliest Number”,

(your Claymation for the day — are you thankful for Claymation?)

therefore the Random Number Generator will choose three winners (assuming at least three people enter) — because three is just a great number.  (And because my husband will consider it a gift if I share some of my lovely yarn.) ETA: Again, the winners win a skein of yarn in their choice of color.  If you remember, put your favorite color or colors in your comment, otherwise, I’ll ask you if you are a lucky winner.  The skein will be very cool and nice sock yarn, unless sock yarn is totally not your thing, in which case, I’ll find something else!  Contest deadline is midnight CDT on Monday, December 1st, 2008 – so that travelers can return home and still have time to enter.

*Lastly, we already have a winner!  Louise knows her knitting (well, I knew that already) and correctly answered with the detail I was looking for on yesterday’s warm-up contest.


The style of sweater shown (on both cheery models above) is (a Mary Maxim adaptation of) a Cowichan sweater (fascinating history, check it out), and the perky blonde is modeling curling motifs, specifically brooms (aka brushes) and a rock (aka stone).  (Though I love Teyani‘s suggestion that it was a bomb.  Heh.)

Plus, I’d like to see that hairstyle hold up to a few ends of brisk sweeping, Aqua Net or no.  Not to mention the lipstick and the little ascot scarf.   SWEEP!  HURRYHURRYYHARDHARD HARD!  (Another YouTube video.  It’s amateur, because all the professional ones have voiceovers and you can’t hear the skips yelling.  Which they do.  It’s their job. YouTube, ’tis the theme today.)

And lastly, a short YouTube clip for all of those of you who think that curling is boring.  OK, OK, maybe it possibly could be less than exciting if you don’t curl and don’t understand what’s going on.  Other than when streakers with strategically placed rubber chickens interrupt the Olympic medal matches, that is. But if you still are bored, perhaps you’ll prefer this version of curling.

Yes, I have curled.  Why do you ask?

(Don’t forget to leave a Word of Wisdom or Amusement or What-Have-You!)

Some Sociological Musings

So I was speculating the other day why women seemed to be better predictors of their race times than men (based on a totally inadequate sample size and highly questionable logic).

In that same vein, here is an observation and a question.

It struck me, watching the high school show choir Sunday night (not the RockStar’s choir), what a significant percentage of blondes (and blonds) there were.  (Granted, in the picture below, the girl in the foreground looks highlighted, a bit, but three of the other five girls in the picture appeared to be totally natural blondes in real life.)


Here’s a slightly different sampling.


Now, yes, there may have been selection bias for the choir.  But I think most of it is genetics.  Lots of Germans around here, some Norwegians (though many are dark, actually), a few Swedes and Danes.  Of the girls in the choir, there were two redheads, and about 1/3 blonde blondes, about 1/3 dishwater blondes/light brown like me, and about 1/3 brown/black.

Why do I bring this up?

I was at an educational conference in Florida a few years ago.  I was knitting, at the back so as not to distract anyone.  I looked forward at the group of attendees and realized that, although there were a number of blonde heads in the group, not a single one was a natural blonde.  Not one!  It was so strikingly different from the Midwest.

And it led me to ponder — what is so special about blondes?  I considered myself blonde when I was young, though my hair has darkened so I don’t any more (my husband, bless his heart, still thinks of me that way) — being blonde-ish didn’t seem like anything special.  (Leastways, not around HERE.)  Why do black and brown-haired women go blonde?  Sometimes, it doesn’t strike me as flattering, with certain skin tones.  Nor does the black line at the part of the hair.  (My husband, who is generally fairly observant, used to ask me wonderingly how I could tell, if I said something about a woman dyeing her hair.  Another difference between men and women….)

Theories?  Do we want to believe that blondes have more fun?  What is it about blonde hair?

While you’re pondering: tomorrow, a contest announcement, and the day after, the unveiling of the Coulee Shawl (and its free pattern).  Plus:  The Noro Striped Scarf is indeed addictive.  I think it ought to be a controlled substance.


I mentioned earlier that I come from a long line of crafters.  My mother and both her sisters in particular crocheted and knit when I was growing up.  (Some sewing happened too, as I recall.)  My maternal grandmother also knit and crocheted.  I treasure the baby blanket she made for my older daughter….she was in her 80s.  Unfortunately, besides the love of crafting and the ability, I seem to have inherited the family joints, but oh, well.  We can’t pick and choose!

My older daughter, the RockStar, knits when she feels like it (think big needles, fast projects, funky yarn).  My younger daughter, the Gothlet, has inherited not only the genetic craftiness (as applied to not only knitting and crocheting but ANYthing crafty; when she was about 5, she made laptop computers for everyone in the family out of paper, tape and yarn) but has also inherited what one might call ‘practical engineering’ genes (analytical, interested in figuring out what makes things work and not work) from grandfathers and great-grandfathers, a gene my brother got in spades. And I should mention that the girls come by it honestly from both sides; my husband’s mother crocheted them absolutely beautiful bedspreads before her death.

Anyway, a very tangible reminder of this crafting legacy came along when my maternal aunt visited a couple months ago.

Another of my aunts passed away earlier this year after being in poor health for a very long time.  Among other issues, she had diabetes, which for years and years she had ignored, with unfortunate but predictable consequences, including loss of vision.  Sadly, a couple of her joys, reading and the computer, were slowly stolen away by the diabetic vision loss.  But one pastime left to her for a long time, even when her vision was almost gone, was crocheting; and knitting when she had a little more vision.

My semi-namesake aunt brought down a sample of a number of knitted squares she had just found, that her sister, my Aunt Barb, had knit sometime in the past — who knows when?

Look at this:

Look at them together:

There are SIXTY of these squares! Each is roughly 11 inches square. The gauge varies a bit (though because much of it is garter stitch based, I think it’s not critical as they’ll stretch to fit and the number of rows is the same on each).  Some were dirty and a little whiffy.  Some looked like different colors of yarn.  The ‘poofs’ are not as poofy as they look in the picture, as I stuffed them to make them show; but I’m afraid the yarn is acrylic, and the poofy bits would probably take blocking to show to their best advantage.  So they will be floopy poofs.

After consultation (I thought washing and drying, then joining with mattress stitch in a coordinating cream acrylic, should make a twin-bed-size afghan roughly, 66 x 110 inches), my aunt washed the pieces and they cleaned up beautifully.  Except one.  She thinks my Aunt Barb’s eyesight was already going, because 59 pieces are cream-colored, and one is grey….


Well, I guess they could make an afghan that’s 7 squares by 8 squares (77 x 88 inches), with a few squares left over.  A throw pillow with two squares?  And then the grey one is still the odd one out.  (As you might guess, the pattern has vanished into the mists of time.  My aunt doesn’t remember even having seen these before.)

Still, it’s pretty amazing to see these appear after so long.  These have to be pretty old, because Barb hadn’t knit for a long time.

Quite a legacy.


Of course, the real legacy is the crafty love passed down through generations, isn’t it?  I am thankful for the generations I know and knew, and those I didn’t, who said “I love  you” with the work of their hands every day.  Just as much as the Gothlet did when she made me a paper laptop computer!


And, today being Veteran’s Day, I am also thankful for the legacy of those who served; those I know and knew, and those millions I never will.  Years, tears, health, and life, all spent in the service of our country.  A legacy indeed.

Thank you.

A New Day


Sunrise, November 5th, 2008.  Either way, this day was going to dawn on a different America.

As it is, it seems it’s quite a new day indeed, says voter number 1510 at her polling place.  (It was great to see all the college students there.)


I’m just glad my mailbox won’t be stuffed full of double and triple copies of scurrilous attack ads any more.  (Republican Party of Wisconsin, I’m looking at you.)  And glad that an unprecedently long and expensive two-year plus campaign is over at last.

TIme to move ahead and try to work on some problems here.

Tomorrow – back to regularly scheduled knitting and randomness!

Vote Today (if you haven’t already)

Do it for Future Voters like this one.


(The Gothlet, age three, helping her father vote, as seen in our local paper.)