The Woolly Bear caterpillar in the first image below becomes an Isabella tiger moth in spring. But first it can freeze solid up to -90 degrees Fahrenheit if need be. Now that's resilience! (And metabolic anti-freeze).
Today, a wonderful article on calm from knitting. Once we can sit side by side without restrictions, this article is inspiration to resume my intention to teach beginning knitters offline.
October was full, albeit without a blog post. I threw myself into several volunteer endeavors that led to heart-opening connections with people from around the globe, like Conservation Conversations at my alma mater and Narrative 4 facilitator training. Story exchanges were such a powerful experience both as participant and facilitator, I found myself regretting not finishing my teaching degree way back when so that I could have a pool of folks to work with for future exchanges. I continued meeting with a small group in support of REDES and will soon have "The Land" (Te Whēnua) shawl ready to auction on their behalf. I ended the week of Halloween or Samhain in a small group discussion about Spirit with the author of Sand Talk, my favorite book still in process. (I have partially finished reading quite a few books since my English major days - something about great intentions and speed reading?).
It dawns on me, along with distance walking and knitting, connecting with folks across cultural boundaries is what really makes my heart hum, especially when people discover in one another's stories some common feeling more than thinking, some common aspiration for what life on planet Earth can be. It's as if a part of me has always resisted the powerful cultural indoctrination of my culture as viewing oneself as primarily a consumer inside status stratification or money, and a compassionate human being connected to the whole web of life secondarily or as afterthought.
I also finished up 6 months volunteering with Organic Farm School, to which I am endlessly grateful for feeding me luscious produce through most of the pandemic thus far and allowed me to connect with my community off screen. Consider contacting them if you wish to be trained in small-scale sustainable practice farming for a first or second career.
Starting off September with a physical move to a lovely rental that can house my adult child if needed, the month has involved a tremendous amount of change and patience in equal measure. My favorite thing about the new space is it came with built-in bookshelves and trees outside, and its skylights function as a sundial (when a person can see the sun, which has been blotted out by smoke for days). I can watch stars on cloudless nights from inside!
My least favorite thing is an initiation of sorts that seems to occur in almost any place I've ever moved. First my rent check never arrived via USPS to my landlord and upended my finances when my bank put a seven-day hold on a refund. Next, it turned out a giant community of wasps liked the house too and was building a nest in the ceiling. After spending ten days hoping they didn't spread beyond the one room they were in, that is now taken care of and peace of mind has returned.
Heartbroken over wildfires in beloved Oregon, a place of a sort of pilgrimage and sanctuary since age 11 when I saw its coast for the first time on a family roadtrip, went to college there and solo hiked much of the OC, I would like to do anything I can to support those who are uprooted. Up North in Washington, every breath I take, I envision inhaling the loss of animals, plants, humans, belongings and exhaling hope and healing. The wildfires cover the entire coast, but if anyone would like to help Oregon specifically, here is the best collection of support networks I've seen in a single link: Ways to Help During Oregon Wildfires.
In photos are some of the projects I'm working on or have finished over the past month. Patience is required in great measure these days, and I am wishing for all who need support to receive it, and all our collective grief join us in some way larger than our divisive politics.
Two books I can't recommend enough for these times. One for adults, one for children of any age.
Enjoying the soothing power of garter stitch on my nerves these days. Nearly done with Ysolda's shawl and creating one of my own as I go imagining waters of a summer beach.
Now that my workload has recently returned to pre-pandemic levels (whew!), I've enrolled in Betsan Corkhill's magnificent course on Therapeutic Knitting so I can learn how to better use the gift my grandmother gave me to help others in the future.
May you be well.
Honoring International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples today.
A member of the International Council of Indigenous Grandmothers, Grandmother Flordemayo's seed-saving work is supported by Waterwoman Knits. I learned a squash is growing from 800-year-old seed in her family's gardens today. I find listening to her words and guided visualizations healing. Perhaps you may too.
To regenerate life on Earth wherever it needs regeneration. I want to beam Earth's beauty and music to the world so people can see their hearts reflected in Earth's heartbeat.
Sitting at the base of a tree for half a day and knitting heals my overactive screen head mind. Slowly my joy of knitting is returning. I hope making Ysolda's shawl pattern will function as a gateway to resume my own design work.
Having my livelihood pared back mid-50s after living on a hamster wheel of survival productivity for decades has been a blessing of sorts. It has caused me to open my mind to view other directions I might take my life energy and what I might learn. Partially unemployed, I'm taking free coding classes because they are offered to me free. But unless I can use what I learn in support of a nonprofit that is focused on earth regeneration, my heart is not in being a computer coder.
I feel guided by my inner compass to follow threads wherever they lead. Volunteering at Organic Farm School in work trade for best veggies I've ever tasted, finding ways to support an ecovillage project in the African Sahel, adopting a trail near me to be able to give back to the woods that keep my mental health intact. I do not know if I'll ever earn a "living" wage in my lifetime, but I know I am supported to be here. And there are many ways to thrive that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with energy exchange with the natural world and Earth's intelligence.
I support any actions taken to protect and fight for all beings' freedom to breathe, and I bow to earthworms keeping soil thriving under humanity's feet.
During June 2020, my family did. Sort of.
Each week since pandemic times began, my nuclear family with additions (partners, children) has been holding weekly Zoom calls. It's been a wonderful way to have (at least for me) even more communication than prior (my blindspot is initiating contact), and replace our in-person family gatherings for 2020.
My niece birthed the idea for a group of "TED talks" or really a "Teach-O-Rama" for the celebrating resilience occasion of my dad's 80th birthday. After all, what would a retired professor like more than to listen to lectures? The experience need not happen for a birthday and you definitely do not need a professor in the group, but it was such a fun way to share with one another that I thought I'd write a post to encourage anyone else who may be in Zoom-ville doldrums to try it and see what happens.
Step 1: Each person chooses a topic of interest or passion to them that they could comfortably talk about for minimum of 5 minutes. Some of ours went way longer ... in a good way!
Step 2: Take a week or two to plan your sharing, teaching, demonstration.
Step 3: Agree upon a time to meet for 1-2 hours, depending on how long your presentations are.
Step 4: Write up a schedule with presentation titles and share your screen at start of gathering with said schedule.
Step 5: Zoom it up and give one person at a time your full attention while they share their passion project or expertise or whatever they feel compelled to share. Use PowerPoint, or a photo slideshow on your screen, or just you talking with a cardboard cutout behind you and a paper mouse arrow, as one of our lovely presenters did. Endless possibilities.
To give an idea of the topic range, one person shared about values important in teaching, one about data compression and GIFs, one about library classification systems, one about rules of writing four-part harmony in music, one about following genetic information from DNA to RNA to proteins with computer coding, one on the importance of the ethos of creativity in reimagining a more compassionate world, and a few heart sharings that were personal contributions more than teachings, since it was a birthday after all.
For me the "TED talk" experiment was super powerful for several reasons.
I discovered a review I made of compassion years ago, and it speaks to me loudly in this time, so I share it here. An interesting exercise to try, asking yourself, when are you compassionate? When is it difficult to be compassionate?
I am typically compassionate when:
I find it difficult to be compassionate when:
Compassion is most needed for self whenever I block myself from extending compassion to others out of fear. Awareness of my wounds without picking at that woundedness like a scab, alongside awareness of how every human on the planet is wounded allows me to hold great compassion for both myself and others. Everyone wants to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin. People may have dysfunctional ways of going about getting that feeling of safety and comfort.
I have witnessed countless people practicing compassion in action, and I am grateful for their models. (Knitting in action). I am passionate about both distance walking and knitting as secular spiritual practices where I find personal peace and methods to show compassion for others. I have raised thousands of dollars for people through walking prayer.
In this moment of June 2020, everything I can say or do feels inadequate to rethink my place inside a racist structural system, the pain so vast. So I am now listening to strong voices of those expressing generational trauma and oppression. America has its own unique form of racism that began before the country found its identity. Wall Street is literally built on mass graves. Hitler even took his "bible" from America's breed of self-proclaimed superiority (Madison Grant). We then took on an anti-racist identity in fighting in WWII. And yet, we did not look in the mirror until enough is enough and the world slowed by pandemic allowed us a moment of clarity that feels different than any before.
One tiny bit of action I am taking shamefully so late, is to join in support of the NAACP and other social justice groups. Decades ago I completed my English degree thesis on African-American poetry, specifically Gwendolyn Brooks' writings signed off on by a teacher who was a close friend of Ralph Ellison. I lived among a diverse group of POC after college who accepted me warmly as their awkward, white friend. I know exactly where I was when Nelson Mandela was freed and South Africa's truth and reconciliation trials began. I became a literacy center tutor for five years following the poem I wrote below at age 20, a few years before Portland systematically drained black neighborhoods and became one of the whitest cities in the entire US. (I do not mean to suggest illiteracy is linked with race, historical access to education system is though).
What I ask myself in this moment is, where have I been since then? Yes, I've been single parenting, working 60+ hrs/week for years, but in my work and education I also had privilege to have access to information some others didn't outside my social bubble. And yet I did not feel empowered, no, take the time to act on that information. It feels like I've been hugely distracted and disassociated from the experience of others based on my choices and geographic buffers, i.e., white neighborhoods. In this moment, the light is shone brightly on the truth that I live in a different reality, yes, the same country, but a different reality than black folks, as no matter how high up the corporate ladder, when out on the street living lives, it's a different reality from me. And yet, our fates are deeply connected. This James Baldwin clip from 1968 is just stunning when heard in light of today, more than five decades later.
I do know what it's like to be low income all my adult life, but I don't know what it means to not have family able to support me when the going gets unbearable (privilege), don't know what it is to live judged as a POC/BIPOC, and even though I learned much historical context, I am ashamed it has taken me this long to see what is true and how much work I need to do.
Two Top Buttons Fell
Portland's public reading room is shelter from
Oregon's cold winter days;
downtown where you are
always trying to get up.
My high-back, hardwood chair
brings me to the edge of Medgar Evers' life story,
marching on Selma's streets with N double ACP.
Seeing people overcome the hound dogs' bark,
reading words of freedom-love, life-love, blood-love.
Your tired scarf and maroon wool hat
frame your pride-lined face.
Across the broad yellow table,
your brown Salvation coat gapes at me
where two top buttons fell.
Veins in your thumb strain as you move a page.
Your eyes look only down over Time magazine glare.
Glossy red runs there between dark skin
and South African dirt.
I want to teach you to see the words
on that shelf behind your back.
Bright lights in this room
remind us to belong out of the cold;
only closing time pushes you back
to the frosted bench to wait.
Every day you understand
how to sit near the words
and meditate on full color.
No story can explain
how you know that blood speaks.
One of these days, I'll get back to blog on a love of knitting, but in the last few months what sustains me is nature connection, so I am sharing yet more images of the natural world. I cannot explain why my knitting mojo has left for a few months, but a major lesson of this time is kindness to self and leaning into what is. I deeply appreciate you know who you are for checking back in with me on a weekend about the Maker Circles. I'm game anytime anyone would like to join me, and I will be inspired to knit a few rows. Find me on Insta or email@example.com if you want me to send out a reminder and a link/password.
Ferns are among the oldest surviving plants on Earth, and they have always called to me. When asked to seek a name that nature gives me in an eco-art course, my birth name fit right inside.
This week, I felt in heaven walking among this season's spirals of new life in the sun filtering through the woods. And as I leaned in close to look at the spirals unfurling, I felt I was staring into scrolls of ancient wisdom of the universe.
Today I wanted to write a thank you to my daughter for allowing me to be a mother. But the words felt scrambled in my brain, and instead I had the gift of a wonderful walk in the woods with her, six feet apart. We live in different households a few more months as we wait to learn if her college will resume in fall and I find housing for us both. We are mirror images of one another in many ways, in our independent spirits, and I could not ask to parent a more suited child to me. She is unique as a fingerprint, brilliant, and I always say my greatest teacher, because she contains a wisdom I do not.
Enjoy these images from my own mother's glorious porch garden today. Grateful for mothers everywhere of all kinds, as everyone can mother something or someone. And I celebrate the bounty and restoration of the mother of us all - planet Earth.
A day associated with flowers and protests in equal measure. I can do both. But really, my heart is not in the protest in this moment. It feels so small, when the needs are so huge and collective, and I'm not sure one group is more entitled than the next. If anything is a lesson of these times, it is that ALL humans are deserving and all have lost anywhere from something to everything in this pandemic.
(Although, I was on a group gathering with someone from Denmark who informed me her country has no more than normal death rates, and everyone has guaranteed health insurance and government support if they are not working ... For a moment, I wanted to throw a shoe at my computer screen, but instead, I chimed in dreamily how wonderful it is to know this exists in some universe, leadership and society based on public good).
I still have not received any of several pots of government assistance I'm "entitled" to, despite hours of trying to access, but honestly it feels a bit petty at this point. I understand systems are outdated and swamped, and folks are working around the clock to serve the 1 in 5 folks who've applied for unemployment in my state. And yet, to honor the survey I participated in, I am posting this little bit of advocacy. Many freelancers are actually in frontline jobs, whereas mine is about as back-line as you can get, so for that I am grateful, even if half of it has disappeared.
Acts of kindness feel extra poignant right now. I was able to shift my "victim" mentality of helplessness in the face of all around me, and along with it a bit of my days of depression, thanks to being offered work-trade for weekly vegetables at Organic Farm School. Just being around what I'm calling 'farmer mentality' snapped me out of it. "Oh, this crop loss, this bad patch of weather? It's a learning experience. Today, we retool and replant." It also helped me tremendously to communicate with a few live, off-Zoom people, even through masks at a distance, and be outdoors for a day of my week.
I also took advantage of a free 30-minute career counseling appointment with my former college and was shocked how much I could learn in a short time about how to reframe and honor my years of volunteer and life experience to create a narrative and collaboration springboard around what I want to do in my future, rather than a 25-year list of what I have done in the past in the pattern I'd like to change. Glad for the time now to work on refining this.
Next, I want to share a knitting-related essay that rocked my heart with how powerful the instinct is to want to comprehend something as powerful and incomprehensible as number of stars in the sky in a physical piece of knitting.
Grieving Our Collective Loss--One Stitch at a Time
And now, some May Day Flowers for you, in my weekly series of shelter in place moments relishing the steady stream of nature being its marvelous self. My 12-year-old goldfish makes an appearance, because every day I wake up and he/she is still here, I am amazed.
How is everyone? Having weekends and more than that not working for the first time in years, my entire being seems to be R&R'ing. I slept 15 hours after walking four miles. I'm hearing from other people too, that holding such extremes of just under the surface emotions is requiring extra care. Like seeing a neighborhood drive-by birthday for a child that is joy-filled but super strange and sad at the same moment, or any number of triggers to life being both beautiful and painful in the same moment - how it's always been, we're just super aware now.
In the past decade, I did a lot of mind-body integration work, but I find under our current stresses, I revert to strange physical clumsiness and plain feeling out of body most of the time. I missed a scheduled meeting completely, which is very rare for me. This morning I boiled water for my single-serving coffee French press, and where did I pour that boiling water? Over the coffee grounds in my coffee canister that held a pound of coffee. My choices were either throw out a pound of pasty coffee grounds or pour a ton of cold water over and stick in fridge to make a lifetime supply of cold brew. Being close to the money bone for food, I chose the latter, even though I am thinking I may have just made coffee cement rather than a delectable brew. We make do.
In the BC (before COVID) times, I had a bit of spending money that I used to purchase a sweater quantity of BFL wool from West Yorkshire Spinners. It was the most quality wool for the lowest price I'd ever seen, cost being one of the things that makes me hesitant to make sweaters. The last time I attempted a sweater for myself, I had lost weight and kept it off for a year, so I thought that trend would continue. Wrong. By the time I finished the sweater, I'd gone up two sizes. End result is, although I've knit for over four decades, I do not own a sweater/cardigan that would make people say, "Wow, did you make that?" Pure ego, obviously. But in the BC times, I envisioned myself beginning to lead knit workshops and wanted to make a statement.
Thus, when I saw the Chalkney Cardigan, and learned it was named after a specific woodland, I just had to make it. Anything named after a forest or woods, and I'm there.
Now, in the AC times (after COVID), I have been struggling with a depression that has thrown me to the point where I have not felt able to do one of my main joys - knitting. So I definitely was not going to be finishing this great cardigan structure made all in one piece except sleeves, because 300+ stitches per row was just not motivating.
Instead, in attempt to motivate myself during these AC times, I am going to use my mass quantity of wool to make Carol Feller's Transom Cardigan and if I feel up to it, join in the MDK knit-along starting May to further encourage me. Not sure. Another online group doesn't seem to be doing it for me these days. I'll likely snap myself out of it and just start with adjustments to the gauge since I'm using Aran weight for a pattern that calls for sport weight wool.
I wish everyone out there no coffee disasters and plenty of self-care. Peace out to these amazing sky feelings I was lucky to witness morphing above the tide flats where I saw osprey, sandpipers, blue herons, seagulls, and ducks dredging for morsels.
Staying close to the wealth of nature and making with my hands bring me greatest joy and comfort. You can find me on Instagram as @waterwomanknits, and on Ravelry as Waterwoman-Knits.