Crowz Nest

Because it's time... as it was once before.

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Location: Port Murray, NJ

I'm a bit old to be starting out in life again, but that's where I am. Sadly. Or gladly. It's where I am. Come along. Watch the fun. Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Christmas in January

When I got home today, there was a slip in my mailbox saying that an insured package was waiting for me at the post office. I knew who it was from (Suzanne,) and I knew it was my Christmas present, but I didn't know what it was. And, since I was dying of curiosity, I rushed the dogs through their exercise so I could run back out to the post office before it closed and collect this package.

I can't describe what it's like to open a box and find a likeness of someone you love staring up at you from a completely unfamiliar medium, and yet instantly to recognize them. It happened to me once before, when Beth and Deb sent me a memorial stone with Beckett's image in stained glass inlaid into concrete.

I brought the box inside and laid it on the table. Crow and Hudson's noses were glued to it. They knew it had come from Suzanne, clearly, and were gulping great volumes of information about their relatives from the outside of the box. They were almost as curious as I was, so I hurried to find my knife and cut the box open.

As soon as I opened it, I saw that there were German Shepherd plaques of some sort inside, wrapped individually in bubble wrap, and securely taped. The first one I pulled out of the box was Hudson. As I pulled off the wrapping, I instantly knew it was him. The impact of the beauty of this thing was so powerful that I had to sit down as I ran my fingers over the grains.

Then, in a rush, I realized that the remaining piece in the box had to be Crow. I felt such an urgency to see it that my fingers fumbled with the tape secured around the bubble wrap. The harder I tried to unwrap it, the more I fumbled. I finally took the exacto blade, slowed myself down, and carefully cut the last bit of tape away. And there she was; just as surely as the first piece had been Hudson, the second was my beautiful Crow.

Suzanne had these commissioned. They were done by an artist out in Wisconsin named Sue Lienau. I think these are stunning. They're much more impressive in person than they are in the pictures. It's worth clicking on the photographs for a larger image. They're done in wood, of course, and each piece is individually shaped and polished. They're substantially sized, about 16 inches tall. There's something so indescribably alive about them, I just sit and run the tips of my fingers over them,

Now I just have to figure out where to hang them. Right now, they're sitting on the mantle in the living room and I've barely been able to take my eyes off of them all evening. Thank you, Suzanne, and thank you, Sue. What an amazing gift, and what amazing talent!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's a matter of comfort

Knitting is a thing of comfort, a quiet, repetitive motion, one that requires little thought or focus once you learn the pattern, one that lulls you and soothes you while at the same time creating something useful and, hopefully, beautiful.

This past weekend, I stayed three nights at a friends house so that there would be a responsible adult present with their 13 year old son. Though I didn't have my own bed, I had my dogs with me, and my knitting. The room I was in was dark and warmed by a small gas fireplace. I was comfortable.

My friend had left food. I had macaroni and cheese for the first time in years. Imagine that. Macaroni and cheese. What an indulgence! And in a very surprising way that, too, was comfortable.

The first night home I was looking forward not only to sleeping in my own bed, but to an evening of relaxing in familiar surroundings, in my own place, with everything I need right at hand. It was cold out, and chilly in a house that had been vacant for the weekend. I'd turned the heat down on the main floor, and left only enough running upstairs to keep the parrots warm. I pulled on a sweater Joe gave me to lounge in - a Scottish wool thing that is so long on me I could wear it out as a dress - and a loose fitting pair of jeans. The heavy wool socks Kaitlynn made for me were on my feet, but I still felt chilled, and I wanted something hot to drink.

I was just about coffee'd out, though, and my tea supply, believe it or not, had been depleted by a very industrious mouse. So, I stood, cupboard door in hand, looking at the nearly empty shelves, and wondering what I could fix for myself when my eye fell on an untouched can of Nestle's Cocoa, purchased at some point late in my marriage to Bas, probably so he could bake brownies (one of the things he loved about America!)
There it was, way up on the top shelf, unopened and forgotten ... comfort in a can. It had been through at least two house moves, and probably barely escaped being thrown out each time. Has this packaging ever changed in my lifetime?

Hmm ... cocoa. And I actually had a jug of milk in the fridge, something I don't usually keep on hand. And vanilla extract. And even some Splenda. Like macaroni and cheese, I hadn't had a cup of cocoa in years. But I had everything I needed, didn't I? I made myself a steaming mug of hot cocoa. I took it upstairs and picked up the socks I was knitting in a wonderful wool and silk blend, in a wonderful warm, brown color that was labelled, coincidentally, "Cocoa."
Put your feet up in cocoa colored socks that you made for yourself,
sit back, relax. You're home.

Sitting there with my dogs oh-so-comfortable to be back home, with nowhere to go, and nothing to do but knit, and sip hot cocoa, nestled in Joe's big old sweater, with my feet up on the furniture I grew up with, and this house that I own warming up around me - well, it was, just a wonderful confluence of the smallest things coming together. It was, quite simply, a matter of comfort.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hair of the dog

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can safely blog about the thing that was my huge excitement this season. In October, I attended the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival with Lauren. Lauren and I met on Canine-l. So, we already knew we shared a love for German Shepherds in particular and dogs in general. Slowly, we became aware of another shared passion - for knitting. But Lauren goes beyond knitting. She spins. She is also, as I understand it, determined that I am going to become a spinner as well, and has generously loaned me a wheel to practice on. I'm not very good at it, and I've been knitting so much recently that there hasn't been much time to practice it. The festival gave me a glimpse into a world as broad and deep as the dog world is. It was a feast of fiber, which translates into an eye-appealing sea of colors, and an orgasmic tactile orgy of textures - softness, bounce, drape, warmth. It was seductive on so many sensory levels, and clearly a world into which I will venture further as time goes on. It has already, in ways both subtle and pronounced, altered forever my love affair with knitting.

I've always loved knitting, and I love making gifts for people. A long time ago, I discovered the magic connection in knitting; I never feel any closer to anyone than I do when I'm knitting a gift for them. When I'm knitting for a baby not yet born, by the time they've arrived, I feel very much a part of their new, fresh life. And when I'm knitting for someone I love, it makes me feel as if I'm wrapped around them as surely as the garment will be. I love knitting as a dynamic, creative act of love.

I was already making my sister a shawl for Christmas, and my increased focus on knitting had already made me determined to make as many Christmas presents as I could. A pair of handmade socks I received as a gift last year reminded me how special it can be to be given something so simple, but so thoughtful and full of love. So, I had this notion of what to give my friend, Suzanne, for Christmas. Suzanne has one of everything, I think, and little room among the many animals in her household to put even one more knick-knack. She's someone I love very dearly. She also bred Crow and Hudson. I wanted to give her something special, unique. I always do, but sometimes just come up really dry, and can't come up with an idea that really seems to hit the right note.

All of these things started to gel in my mind early in the fall. My increased interest in fiber and yarn, my new interest in spinning converged with my search for an idea for a Christmas gift for Suzanne, and finally, I got it. I asked Lauren if she'd be willing to spin fur I'd brushed out of Crow and Hudson into yarn for me. She agreed to do it. When we were at the NY show, I looked for fiber to blend the dog hair with, and found some wool that was a good color match. I bought a batt, and sent it home, along with a bag of German Shepherd hair, with Lauren. Lauren would transform these ingredients into the raw material I needed to make Suzanne a gift that was from all of us, and hopefully, would show her how much she meant to us.

A few weeks later, I received a box of doghair yarn (along with goodies for the dogs and me - don't you just love a friend who does you a favor and then sends you gifts on top of it? Lauren's the best!) There was a little 2 ply, a little more 3 ply, and even more 4 ply. There wasn't enough of any of them to make a big project, but there was plenty for something small - a hat, a scarf, maybe a cowl, mittens, or gloves - something meaningful, something warm, something useful, something, ultimately, symbolic.

I finally settled on a hat and some fingerless gloves.

I had some beautiful grey heathery alplaca from my friend Janie's son's animal. With that in hand, there was more than enough doghair yarn for these items. (Nothing worse than getting halfway through something only to realize with a sinking feeling that you're never going to have enough yarn to finish!) The result was more than gratifying. After I made the gifts for Suzanne, I couldn't bear to part with them. So, though they were done well before Christmas, I wasn't able to make myself put them in the mail. I couldn't force myself to send them off, and I finally realized that part of the reason for that was that I needed to make myself something with the yarn I had left. Once I figured that out, they were packed up and on their way. I altered the pattern slightly for my own hat, so that Suzanne and I would each still have something unique, but I'm so glad that I, too, have something made from the very first yarn that was spun from Crow and Hudson.
Here I am, wearing the hat which was made for Suzanne. Don't I look like something from the Blair Witch Project?

I haven't had so much fun getting ready for Christmas in a very long time. I'd write more about it, but my knitting marathon (making these gifts ignited a wildfire of knitting beyond description. I was a mad woman, churning out pair after pair after pair of Fetching gloves, one pair per evening over the entire holiday break!) brought on an acute case of repetitive stress injury to my hands, and I shouldn't even be on the keyboard!