Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Safety Pins and Feeling Lost

In the wake of an election that did not go the way I expected or hoped it would, I am so confused about this country I barely leave my house right now. I stay home and knit mostly, which is a valid thing to do, since I'm actually getting paid to do it these days. Still it might also be a little bit cowardly of me. I will admit to feeling kind of lost, and at a loss as to what I might do that will do any good.

"Peaceful" demonstrations in the Portland streets are not just "out there" somewhere, but in my own downtown neighborhood. I look out from the safety of my fifth floor window, and see streams of people marching, shouting, chanting, carrying signs. The signs are all over the protest map, scrawled with everything from "Love Trumps Hate" to "Please Be Nice" to "Not My President" to "F**k Trump." 

These peaceful demonstrations are taken over by a few dark-minded trouble makers, and then I see trucks loaded with riot squad police officers roll by, followed by the sound of loud speakers and warnings, and eventually flashbangs exploded into crowds, in an attempt to disperse them, or at least keep them moving. It goes on late into the night, and it's one of the most disturbing things I've ever lived with.

All over the internet, I see people expressing shock, sadness, anger and hatred. I suppose it's to be expected that Hillary supporters would be outraged and vocal. But what scares me is that I also see Trump's supporters lashing out with hatred for the majority of the country who actually would have elected Hillary if numbers of votes were what we counted. It's almost like there's a new permission for people to behave at their very worst, granted by a man who is proud of his own bad behavior.

What are we all supposed to do? There are good and decent people in both camps. I know that my friends who voted for Trump did not do it to cause us all harm. We've all heard all the reasoning, and it doesn't matter anymore why this man was elected. What matters is how are we going to keep him from dividing us in ways we thought we'd long ago healed? How will we keep the good that this country has? How will we preserve the rights we've worked so hard to earn? How can we still treat each other with kindness and respect, even when we don't agree?

I latched on to the growing popularity of wearing a safety pin, thinking that was a quiet little expression of solidarity with other peace-loving people. I thought it would discreetly, but clearly say, No, I did not vote for this. I wore a pin for a couple of days, and I felt like I was making more than the usual connection with people I passed on the street. Young women of various ethnicities, all with darker skin than mine, were the most likely to make eye contact and smile. Did they feel safer with me out there, wearing my little safety pin? Maybe. Or maybe I imagined it.

Then I came across an article criticizing the safety pin movement as just a way for white people to make themselves feel better without really doing anything. Crap. That's sort of what I was doing. I don't want to demonstrate, march, or protest. I don't want to be confused for one of the crazy window breakers. I don't want to find myself in a cloud of tear gas. And I really really don't want to be hurt or arrested. 

The day I took my pin off, I was out with Rick, and a woman looked at us and launched into a hissing tirade - something like, Oh my God... oh my God... so much hatred... It hit me almost physically. Why in the world would someone make such an enormous assumption about a small, even meek, symbol of peace? I was crushed. I thought about it all afternoon, and while Rick tried to assure me that the woman was just a crazy person, I was seriously questioning the value of my safety pin wearing. If it could be misunderstood so hugely, how was it helping anything?

Later, on the way home, we passed a leftover Halloween prop that a local pizza place had outside their door. It had creeped me out for weeks, and it was still there, too long after Halloween to be even remotely amusing anymore. It was a life size Arnold-As-Terminator statue, with half of his face dripping off, wearing a chef's apron with "You'll Be Back" written on the front in blood red, and holding a pizza peel and a very large, very real looking shotgun. It wasn't witty. It was offensive. I walked as far around it as I could, and crossed the street, back to the spot where the woman had been offended by my safety pin earlier... 

Oh man... what a day...

And that's when I realized what had probably really happened. The Terminator across the street was in direct line with where the woman had been looking at "us" earlier. More likely, she had looked right past us, and was as offended by the lifelike killer on the corner as I was. I can't be sure why, but that big creepy Arnold disappeared later that day, and hasn't been back since. My guess is the angry woman went right over there and set them straight, while I walked invisibly by with a safety pin on my sweater. I took the pin off and set it on my bathroom counter.

We have to be so careful right now, not only with what we say and do, but in what we assume. We don't know what each other is thinking. I could have just walked over to the woman whom I thought was outraged with me and asked her what was wrong. Even if she was upset by something about me, I'll bet we could have talked about it. I also could have gone into the pizza place days before all this happened and gently suggested that their Halloween joke had turned the corner to bad taste. I can do more. We all can. But I'm really not at all sure what that is just yet.

My safety pin remains on the bathroom counter. It's cold and rainy outside today, and there's nothing I need to go out for, so I'm staying home. After writing this, I'll make more tea and knit. I have wishes to fill, soft comforting things to make for people who have asked for them. Maybe I'm not really lost after all. I'm right here. Doing what I know how to do. I have to believe that's helpful in some way. 

As for the safety pin, well I'm not sure. It might be better to actually speak with other humans. I have long had the habit of keeping a little smile on my face when I'm out in public. Very tiny. It's more intentionally from my eyes than from my lips. More often than not, when I catch someone's eye, they'll smile back, and that, in turn, can change their whole day. 

What might happen if we timid ones put ourselves out there as a one-person peace march whenever we go out? I think it's worth a try.

Things for me to remember:
Talk to people.
I can't get lost because I'm always in here (hand held over heart).
Making beautiful things puts love into the world.
I can always do better.
My smile is my safety pin.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Color of a Siamese Cat

I like to come up with my own names for things like yarn colors. Somehow, naming the color is like a finishing touch I can give to a handmade piece. It makes it more personal, and even more handmade.

My latest scarf is made in a lovely cotton-viscose yarn that the manufacturer calls "Mouse." After working with it for a bit, it occurred to me that they were way off on this one. My name for the color is "Siamese Cat," and I'm sticking with it.

The Journey Scarf continues to be one of my two favorites to knit. This one, just finished, blocked, and photographed, is available on my website today, but I don't think it will be there for long. As with all the others, if it's not sold in a couple of days, it becomes mine. So far, all of them have found homes though, which is really nice.

I didn't see it coming, but I did wish for it - time to knit all I want, cook when I want, and somehow get paid. Admittedly, there's not a lot of money in hand knitting. But for me there's enormous comfort and satisfaction. In a limbo-phase in life, when I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, having this thing to do is such a lovely gift. 

I have a nice long waiting list for my scarves, and a growing stash of friendly yarns. The weather says, stay inside, make some tea, and make something pretty. And so I do just that. Life may be more uncertain than I'd like right now, but all things considered, it's a pretty sweet gig.

I wonder what color will present itself next. That deep, lovely red that I might call "Wine Tasting," the soft pink that calls out, "Cherry Blossom" to me, or maybe the gorgeous coral that reminds me of an "Amsterdam Rose." I won't know until I know.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Audible is My Gym Membership

My daughter turned me on to Audible a few weeks ago. I trust my kids to steer me to the best technology of the moment. They're always right about this stuff, and they can always help me figure out how to use it if I get stuck. (Like when I finally traded in my 6 year old flip phone on an iPhone and couldn't figure out what to do with it. Lauren simply said to me, "Mom - it's all about the home button." Such wisdom. So helpful.)

Audible is an Amazon service that provides streaming audio books. And it's easy. I haven't actually needed help with it. Lauren got me started by sending me You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. I wasn't sure this was my kind of book, but I downloaded it, popped in my single earbud (I like to hear the world around me) and headed out the door for a walk. I walked through seven chapters. I didn't want to go home. I just wanted to keep reading an walking - at the same time.

I finished the book in three days, which absolutely never happens. I find time to "read with my eyes" at bedtime, which means I'm already tired and about to fall asleep. I read maybe two pages, the second of which I can't remember anything about the following night and have to read all over again. Reading and sleeping go hand in hand in my world. Words on paper at night are like a sleeping pill.

But reading with my ears is a whole other deal. I can read while I walk to the grocery store, and even while I'm shopping. I do pause to interact with other humans when necessary, but for the most part, I can just do my thing and ignore the bad supermarket music.

I use Audible a lot at home too. I work here, and I never turn on the TV during the day unless it's to balance the dreariness of relentlessly gray skies with the crackle of a cozy virtual fireplace.

When I write, I listen to music, usually classical, and rarely anything with words. The words on my page need to be my own, after all. But if it's a day for knitting, or cooking, or cleaning the floors, I get a lot of reading done at the same time I do all those things, thanks to a bluetooth speaker that eliminates the need for headphones. Oh, beautiful technology, and sound waves flinging themselves through the air!

I lean towards the you-can-do-it, self-helpy, inspirational genres these days, so I tend to listen to most of my books more than once. Matter of fact, I listened to You Are a Badass twice, then bought the paperback, and am giving it a third go-around, highlighting my favorite bits as I go. I've also gotten a lot out of Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, and How to Be an Imperfectionist, by Stephen Guise.

I bought Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic in hardback the moment it came out, and found it somehow comforting and encouraging during the time I spent with my dad in his last few months. I was more than a little bit lost then, faced with knowing I would soon be losing my beloved hero of a father, and completely unable to focus on myself and what I was doing, or wanted to be doing. Months later, this same book, now on Audible, nudges me forward, back into my own life.

What can I say? It's been a rough year. I need a little cheerleading, and I've found a way to get a whole lot of it. To say that I'm grateful is so insufficient.

Maybe, at $15 a month, there are cheaper ways of listening to audio books, but when I think of it as a gym membership rolled in with continuing education and personal development, it's a damn good deal.

Don't get me wrong. I love holding a real live book in my hands, and turning pages and reading the words for myself, but I'm also enjoying a big new world of knowledge and information, thanks to my darling daughter, who once again has sent me to just the right place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Project Hopping

Most of the time, I have one project going, and I stick with it until I'm finished. Not always though, as I proved to myself over the past week. Today I photographed and listed for sale this lovely dove gray Portlandia Shawl. I really wanted to keep it, but I know I can make another one, and I probably will. If you want this one for your very own, check my Handmade page to see if it's still available. If not, there will be something else in its place before long.

While I was working on this, I got a yarn delivery that totally distracted me. Instead of doing the fringe on the Portlandia, I spent a couple of days starting a new shawl in this amazing cotton/viscose blend. The yarn is like like a tiny knit tube rather than being twisted, and it's so soft and fun to work with, and it has shiny bits! Maybe this one will be mine...

And then, just as I was ready to go back and do the fringe on the other one, a light bulb went out in our apartment.

No big deal, right? A stupid light bulb? I called the office and our nice maintenance guy came right up with a new one. He even managed to change it without having to stand on my bed, which made me very happy. I asked if it was the same kind of bulb as the one that had been there for the last two years, and was assured that it was. But later that night, when we turned it on...

OH YUCK!!! Instead of the nice, warm, ignorable glow the original light had, our bedroom was now bathed in a ghastly "prison cell" sort of light that made everything, including our skin, look gray. This was not going to do.

I knew the apartment management couldn't help me, so I did what any creative girl would do. I got out a crochet hook.

Only a few late night stitching sessions later, we now have this elegant boho-chic chandelier. The light is much better, and it just looks so darn beautiful. I need to get more crystals for it, but otherwise, this is a total winner. And when we move, it can fold up as flat as a shawl and come with us. I like it so much, I might even want to look for a place with an ugly ceiling light so we can use it again.

So there we are. All in a week's work. I think project hopping is not just an okay thing, it's a good thing. Sure, there might be a delayed finish time, but that's not the point. Creative stuff is supposed to be fun while it's happening. By moving between a few different things, the work and the exploration stay fresh, and the finished result is joyful rather than forced and tedious.

And by the way, in case you like to peek into other people's windows to see how they live (I do), this is our apartment. Our entire apartment, except for the bathroom, which was directly behind me as I stood on the far side of the bed to take this picture. We love our 571 square foot home, but it's beginning to feel like it's time to look for a little bit more space.

I need more room for yarn...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Knit in Public

After writing the Knitting Meditation post, I wondered if I might grow tired of knitting and let it drift away, as sometimes happens with things that seems like the thing when they first appear. The opposite has happened, actually, and this surprises me.

I missed World Wide Knit in Public Day this year. I was in San Jose and didn't find (or have time for) a knit-in anywhere in the area. When I got back home to Portland, I visited one of my favorite yarn shops, Knit Purl, where I picked up some gorgeous organic cotton yarn (which became the scarf below, that I finished and wore on my daughter's wedding weekend).

I chatted with the woman helping me about how bummed I was to miss knitting in the park with them. As I was leaving, she handed me one of their little I Knit In Public buttons, and in that simple gesture, something in me shifted.

I stuck the button onto the handle of the big polkadot tote I use for a knitting bag (literally stuck it, eventually, with super glue, because I kept knocking it off), and started carrying the bag, and the knitting, almost everywhere I went. I'm still carrying it. Somehow, that button gave me permission to go forth and be a knitter, any time, and anywhere I want to.

I'm on a knitting rampage. I knit in restaurants and bars. I knit at the movies, while I wait for the lights to go down. I knit while I'm waiting for coffee, and given Portland's near-legendary "slow hipster service," that can be a considerable amount of time. I also knit when hanging out with friends, a glass of wine alongside for the social time. They ask me what I'm making and keep tabs on my progress. They're interested. And to my surprise, I don't feel like a weird old lady, but more like a somewhat fascinating, creatively driven person who's fortunate enough to be able to make stuff everywhere she goes.

What started out as a few minutes in the morning, when I ease into the day with some knitting meditation and tea, has settled in and become a big part of my days. Some "sit", I knit. In a lot of ways, it's the same thing.

As a result of all this knitting, I'm accumulating more knitted objects than I really need - or have room for. The result of that is I've started selling a few things. I really don't have room for a new scarf every week or two, so selling them supports my very tasteful yarn habit, and also makes some of my non-knitter friends happy.

There's a lot of stuff in this world. Stores full of things, mostly made by machines. But there's something so increasingly rare and soulful and alive about handmade objects of any kind. With knits, and other things we wear on our bodies, handmade will always feel friendlier than machine made. Every stitch carries with it something of the maker, whether it's her (or his - men knit too) general personality or mood, or actual intentions worked energetically into the fabric. I do that sometimes, and I think putting Love, Gratitude, Balance, Joy, and Compassion into the stitches, one at a time, is something that can be felt by the wearer. Crazy maybe? I'm okay with that.

I think I want to keep sort of a knitting journal here on the blog. So from the beginning, the first scarf I sold was this one, made of baby-soft organic cotton.

When I finished the pink one, made of a cotton-hemp-tencel blend, I wrapped it around my neck and said, Mine.

It's big and drapey and soft, and somehow seems to go with everything. I'm not a pink person, but this  shawl/scarf just speaks to me. It was really fun to make too, so I made another one, this time blue, and a fantastic blend of cotton and bamboo. I offered it in my little shop (I say little because so far, there's only one item in it at a time), and it was sold almost instantly.

I had a hunch the handmadeness of these things I'm making would resonate with certain people. I'm happy that it does. It makes my reach in the world broader, and lets me share some of what brings me so much comfort and joy.

I've named this the Portlandia Shawl, because I imagine draping a gigantic one around the lovely and powerful Portlandia statue that's perched on the Portland Building downtown, reaching her hand down to those who pass below. (I know, you though it was just a TV show...) I walk by her often in my rounds, and I always stop and say hello.

Next on the sticks is another Portlandia Shawl, the one shown above, next to my tea cup. It's the same cotton-bamboo yarn as the blue one, but this time a dreamy, soft dove gray. I hope I have enough yarn to make two of these, because I really want one for myself... and I really want to share one too.

A side note: In poking around for information on the statue, I discovered that her likeness is strictly copyrighted by the artist, which explains why she's not gone the way of other public art, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, turning up on everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets. Portlandia is public art, paid for by public funds, but she is not allowed to become a public icon. Interesting. And I suppose I might have to change the name of the shawl design...

Anyway, if you're interested in having one of these (or maybe something else I'll be adding to the shop soon) for yourself, or to give as a gift, you might want to put your name on my mailing list, so you'll know when something new comes up. Really though, if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, that's always where I share things first.

Gotta go now. I need to knit. Preferably in public.