Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Happy Birthday

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

-Ted Kooser

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Early Birthday Present and a Nice Memory From a Past Life.

Birthday Shawl II

Sorry for the bad posture. I'm hunching because it's cold! Should have dressed warmer.

I've been bitten by the Lace Bug, which has sort of caused me to rearrange my knitting goals for this year. Made the above shawl from a pattern on Ravelry called 198 Yds. of Heaven. I didn't use anything luxurious, just a bit of my favorite workhorse wool. Am really pleased with the results; was so fun to watch the triangle form itself on the circulars.

As I did stretch myself a bit to learn a new skill, the yarn's color reminds me of the North Atlantic and I *did* buy the yarn near a reach, decided to name this first, happy attempt simply 'reach.'
Finch Brunch.

This morning, we counted six goldfinches (three males - I think, three females) and four house finches (two males, two females) on the seed feeders. Mealtime was civil save for a bit of a dogfight between two of the male goldfinches.

The sparrows kept their distance for a while.

Pavel was so pleased, as he'd feared not seeing any goldfinches at all this year.

-Wouldn't it be nice, he asked, if we'd just get a bluejay in for the color? He could come swooping in yelling "global warming! Global warming!" at everyone and the regular working class finches would continue eating and try to ignore him best as possible. Kind of like everyone else around here does.


Did get our wish: a bluejay swooped in a bit after, but kept silent and to himself. Saw him grab himself a good bit of suet (takeout?) and settle down to eat on a fencepost on the other side of the yard.
Full Moon and Frost Flowers.

Last night, was out in the elements for a good stretch (nearly three hours, I think). Sure it was cold and the wind was strong, but gosh, it felt *good.* Natural for this time of year. Really enjoyed it.

On the walk home, saw the sun fade out and the sky turn that glorious royal blue that one only really sees in the Winter. Craned my neck to the right (had to crane it, the joints were freezing!) and caught the Wolf Moon shining brightly just above the horizon.

At home, saw that it was playing with the frost in interesting ways on my upstairs window:

Wolf Moon and Frost

This does no justice to the view from the back window. The frost was acting as a prism and it was quite a colorful display.

Since I sleep under a roof that has windows in it, felt a bit like I was in more northern latitudes during Summer, as everything was lit like twilight for a good bit of the night.

This morning, checked the frost patterns again and found that they'd grown some overnight.

Frost Flowers I

Not quite the sort of garden I'd like to be fussing over, but for this time of year, it'll do.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Probably dream every night, but just don't remember it. Since getting back from France this last time, though, have been remembering an awful lot of long (meaning movie length), coherent ones where I can actually follow the plot and figure out the source material for certain elements. For example: maybe four nights ago, the dream was a pastiche of various nasty things from the old job intermingled with scenes from Julien Sorel's first attendance at the de la Mole salon. (I was Julien, of course. Certain members of upper management were the courtiers. Instead of mid 21st century office furniture from Approved Dealers, the office was decorated in Second Empire style. Makes sense, actually.) Another dream from a week ago was my mind clearly hashing over how I was going to struggle through my mother's taxes.

These have been interesting, but not so interesting as the dreams I had over the past couple nights. The stories weren't much, but a new sense was introduced: taste. I was actually eating and enjoying what I was eating - the textures, the flavors, everything. Even remembered what I'd wanted so badly that I had to imagine it. The first night, it was fried chicken. Real fried chicken like a friend's mom used to make with seasoned flour and milk and served with mustard greens. It was perfect, too - just the right texture, fresh, not too salty, not greasy at all. The greens were a nice, bitter counterpoint to the chicken's buttery-ness.

Last night, I dreamed that my father and I went to an Italian pastry shop in Buffalo, I think, though people were paying in Euros. I was trying to decide between torta di ricotta and some sort of pecan pie thing. Ended up with this amazing chocolate cheesecake with preserved cherries on top. Actually woke up chewing and salivating.

The funny thing about both these lovely new experiences was that I don't much care for fried chicken or rich pastries in my awake life. Wonder why the brain chose them to get excited over?
The latest indignity inflicted on the new girl cat came from the vet and was itemized as "Express Anal Sacs."

Pavel's response being of course, "when they absolutely, positively have to be there overnight. (No third class for this girl.)"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unfinished Object.

My mother liked to work with her hands. She was one of the fastest typists I'd ever seen, my dad's mom aside. (Both of them could do over 120 wpm with a very low margin of error. My best time's only about 90, and this only came with concerted effort.) Was a technically excellent pianist as well. Her favorite handwork, though, was sewing. Like her mother, she was a professional-level seamstress who would take in work from friends and relatives to add to what she earned from the day job. A lot of what she taught me, in fact, was to help alleviate backlog in that business. (This has served me well in the past - namely in college when I'd take in simple repair work for friends because I didn't want to see them be rooked by the tailors on campus. Actually don't enjoy doing it, though.)

She could also knit. I don't think she enjoyed it as much as sewing, as I don't see the same technical level in the finished objects. She did have the basic stitches, casting off and binding off down, though.

Stuffed in a closet (with her old typewriter and my Raggedy Ann doll, in fact), I found an unfinished something:

Mom's Knitting

How long ago did KMart stop carrying their own brand of (surprisingly not squeaky) acrylic yarn? We're really dating ourselves here.

There were two 5' by 10" brown strips, 1 1/2 of the same in beige and a couple gauge swatches. There appears to be enough yarn to make several more, though how many I'm not sure. I think she was intending to sew enough completed strips together to make one (or maybe two?) afghans together. Not for her, though, as the color scheme doesn't go with anything in her house. Wonder who it or they were for?

Double bagged the pieces and the yarn as it all stunk (and continues to stink) of smoke to bring home. It's going to be interesting to see how I can wash the pieces still on needles and stitch holders without either damaging the wash machine or unraveling the work. Absolutely can't work on them in their current state, though.

Kind of makes me sad, as I found a few other such abandoned projects (always) crammed into corners or closets. Also, though we'd not been speaking for nearly a year, I'd started on a gift for her that she'd asked for a while ago: a burgundy colored shawl.

The shawl was unraveled in a fit of rage / frustration around the holidays. Guess I can finish the afghan, though.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today, though it was cooler then yesterday, was much better for getting out and about. Made a point of taking a good, serious (meaning silly-looking power) walk around Cambridge. Returned home to some very good news: My best gal Aimee got accepted into her program*! She's got a good bit of tough work ahead of her, but she's up to it.

Way to go, Girl, you're on your way! (hug)


* At Harvard, no less. Eee!
Was kind of thrown for a loop by yesterday's weather: warm, windy with torrents of rain. The ears and the head could feel the low pressure system passing by; jam jar lids popped in chorus, making it seem as though a poltergeist had visited with the intention of unsealing all my preserves.

Still, was nice to turn off the furnace for a bit, open all the windows and force the bad air out with a *whoosh.* Outdoors, when we could get outside, felt more like an early Fall or Spring night than midwinter.

Headache aside, (still dealing with the residue) this was good. Am thinking of calling it an early Birthday gift and being quietly thankful for it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pattern Recognition.

Geisha Eyebrows

Look at the coloring, those eyebrows. (Thank heavens for no black teeth yet, anyway.)

Promotional picture from Misoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari.)

(Feel as though I should be calling her Noko-san instead of Magnolia. She certainly acts as though I should.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Pale Flower of Spring Hill.

Magnolia with Prey

Daisy Magnolia. Daisy's what her original people called her. For whatever reason, the shelter she ended up at changed her official name to Magnolia. Pavel likes calling her Maggie, Mags or just Silly Maggie. I alternate between the simple 'girl kitty' and savoring the full four syllables of her pink flower name.

Brought her home last night with very little incident aside from a bit of totally-understandable miaowling in the car. First thing was to scope out a safe place under the bed, of course. After a minute or two, curiosity got the best of our heroine and she did a full exploration of the perimeter of the new living space.

Of course, the boys were fascinated. (This time around, I think that it's Tony who's got the crush. Trouble's interested, but not as obsessed with her as he was with Ampersand.) The girl is showing pointed disinterest towards them both.

Will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know for myself that have had the heart hooked. She's really a dear. Hope she grows happier here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Sword and the Shield of Spring Hill.

Didn't know that I wanted to commit to another animal so soon after Ampersand's passing. I mean, my life's kind of hectic and not very stable at the moment. Got myself a couple of plants at the local Home Depot, then started researching other small animals like birds, fish, rats. Ended up springing $.28 at the local Petsmart for a couple little goldfish that I think are normally used to feed other fish:

The big, mottled guy's called Fabio and the little orange one's Skippy. So far I've managed not to kill them. As their bowl's right next to the head of my bed, I've woken up twice now to two sets of eyes staring at me.

It's amazing what a bit of pocket change can get you, isn't it? Pavel thinks the Coinstar folks would make a killing if they had an offer whereby one turns in their change for a school of fish delivered back into the change jar. (Crazier things have been tried.)

I may have moved too suddenly on the fish, though. On the buying trip, made the mistake of walking by the adopt-a-cat section. There were only two cats there: a small, long-haired black girl who looked an awful lot like &. Her name was Jada. The other was a fat, white girl with pink ears, a pink nose and pink toes. She was called Magnolia. Looked so, so sad.

-No, I said to myself. It'd be unfair to bring a cat home. What's my life going to be like over the next few months? Everything's totally up in the air right now.

Still, I kept thinking about her. Even dreamt of her one night. Oy!

Had Pavel bring me back to the store. If she was still there, I could ask some questions, maybe get to meet her. Turns out, she was. Apparently, they were having a hard time adopting her because she'd been sick. Also, she'd only ever been in one household and wasn't taking shelter life well. People often want an immediate bond with an animal, regardless of what species and she was very shy. A bit demoralized, too. Long story short: filled out the adoption paperwork, got accepted, and am going back this evening to pick her up. Pictures will follow, of course. How could they not?
Last week, the poor girl cat's six month heart warranty expired and she had to be put to sleep. Though she and I were more often than not at odds with one another, there was some genuine good feeling between us.

It's amazing how empty the house feels without her.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Angry centerpiece. Dad's place, December, 2009.
Good things.

Okay, there were a few. Had one life line which turned into a major accomplishment: school and finishing a degree. If it had not been for the routine of getting up, getting into school, thinking about something other than what was going on in my life, then going home to prepare for the next classes, I would have fallen apart far more spectacularly than I did. I also found a new love in all this.

With the new framework provided by the History courses (all but cleared out the local community college's catalog), I've been going back to what I'd studied and loved in a past life. How much richer is Stendhal with a better knowledge of the conflicts between Jansenists and Jesuits; between the liberals of the time and absolutists; between the nobles, the bourgeoisie and peasant classes. I don't claim to get *all* his jokes; what I do see is that I'm starting to develop a crush on the protagonist of the story, Julien Sorel. He reminds me an awful lot of me: hyper intelligent but immature, emotionally confused and stunted from a childhood of abuse. Not handsome in a standard way, though striking. All I can hope for is to not come to the same end as he did. (So far, so good.)

I can't talk about school without mentioning at least in passing birds. Again, they've provided respite and comfort when I couldn't see through the gray cloud that envelops me sometimes. I'd taken up sitting in the kitchen to do my reading and writing; it was the warmest and brightest room in the house at the time (we've since fixed up the dining room - oh, the light we have there in the mornings now!), plus there was a decent surface for me to spread out my books, papers, computer. Noted that Tony was spending an awful lot of time at my side - found that he was actually not there for my company, but rather to watch the birds and the squirrels in the yew right out the window. A cheap feeder and suet cage scaled up to a thistle sock, a squirrel-proof seed feeder and a couple cages (not to mention a birdbath and a house that Pavel made himself). We now buy seed in 50 lb bags and suet cakes in quantity. There are several different editions of the Petersen guide floating around for quick reference if one of us sees anyone new. I am always amazed at what incredible things I find if I just take a few moments out to be quiet, to be still, to observe.

Thanks to Ravelry, my knitting's through the roof. Though am on Facebook and look at Twitter from time to time, to be honest, I'm not sure if I care for either so much. Ravelry isn't a social networking site per se, more of an online Alexandria for needleworkers. There's an awful lot of nice people there, though. Some, too, that I'd not mind meeting in person (and this is saying a lot, as I generally don't care much for people). Three cheers to the folks who created it and maintain it! It's an incredible resource.

Though I've yet to get myself back into good, strenuous exercise like I used to do, have managed to get a control on the eating. Since about May of last year, have managed to take off roughly 20 lbs. This has helped the knee and ankles considerably, not to mention energy (most of the weight loss has been thanks to South Beach - the closest thing, it seems, to the old Weight Watchers plan I remember from 20 years ago that I lost something like 60 lbs with - always felt good on that, too). I still have a bit to go, but if I just stick to it and get back either into swimming or running (don't know if the latter is possible), I'm sure I'll get to where I want to be.

So, not all has been bad. Thank heavens for that.
Should have known better than to not only ignore the flashing amoebas obscuring my vision the other day, but to go out and indulge in three of the big four that all but guarantee a knockout: salted nuts, chocolate, red wine. I deserved the hammer slamming down, the blindness and the eventual loss of a perfectly good meal. (idiot.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I apologize for the radio silence over the past few weeks. Have been a bit overwhelmed with health concerns, family issues and the deep, deep sadness that envelops me at times (most often at the darkest time of the year).

2009 was a rough year for nearly everyone I'm close with. On my side of things, the death of my aunt last February, followed by that of a favorite uncle in May, then that of my mother in November hit not like rabbit punches, but more like a solid sock in the nose each time I'd pick myself up. Haven't even really begun yet the untangling that needs to be done to deal with each very different flavor of grief the part of me that barely responds to reason is experiencing.

Of course, I'm not in a vacuum with my grief; have been thrown in an awful lot with family. Now, a good part of the reason I moved here was to get away from family's reach. I'm sure that I do love them; can't not. We share the same ties, heck, the same DNA; hating them would be hating myself, I think. I don't think that I like an awful lot of them, though. Not healthy in general, not healthy for me in particular. The return from my Aunt's funeral put me in a tailspin for a good month. The cannonball in the pit of my stomach born from everything around my mother's death is only starting to dissolve (and soon to be replaced with another for dealing with the estate).

That's been the major stuff. There are other things as well: health (dealing with the boondoggle of Commonwealth Care has completely soured me on them.), finance/work (would love to be able to settle down enough to even get some temporary work. I miss work! Money is starting to become an issue, too.), home life (I live with one of my best friends in the world. It can be a serious trial, though, as he's got some things that need fixing and refuses to put the work in), love life.

Love's an important thing. On one hand, why couldn't I have done the normal thing and found someone nearer by? Why does it have to be a flight (hate flying) over a large body of water (hate the thought of being over an ocean for so long). Last flight, what with the security theater and my getting food poisoning and all, was particularly miserable. Well, for what it's worth, I think the Frenchie's worth it, if only because he seems to not mind putting up with me.

(To be continued. Migraine break.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, I'll be darned.

I've been voting against both incumbents since I was old enough to vote. Finally, it's meant something.

Thank you, Mr. Brown! Thank you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Personal Response to the (I'm sure very lovely lady) who ordinarily doesn't have time for most folks in the neighborhood under normal circumstances but who saw fit to educate us rubes in the hinterlands* on why we need to vote for Coakley tomorrow:


* Somerville.

Sign #3

Sign #2

Sign #1

May the Best Man win (via honest means).

Monday, January 11, 2010


Flight's already delayed for three hours - will be delayed for an undetermined further length, according to the folks in charge of taking care of us / penning us in at CDG. As much as I'm feeling sorry for myself, I feel worse for them. No breaks, constant individual searches and patdowns if we go to the toilet or to get a coffee...dealing calmly with our frustrations.

Maybe I'll get home tonight; we'll see.