Sunday, October 18, 2015

Easing in to Autumn

Autumn is Homecoming time, something I don't usually pay much attention to.  It means chaperoning a dance, wearing my semi-formal black dress and matching long coat--what I refer to as my 'Matrix Outfit'--which I wear for an hour or two each year.  I stand around in a gym or commons space watching giddy teens cycle the room, discard their preposterously high heeled shoes, and shriek in excitement as the DJ spins their favorite tunes.

My son's school has a traditional Homecoming parade through the town square.  All week the students meet at someone's house to build a class float for the Friday parade before the football game.  This is the first year my son participated, and the first time I've been to the parade since he was about five or six years old.

By all counts it was a fun parade, complete with waving queens, classic cars, marching band, and--of course--the floats.

I've been incredibly exhausted lately with the drive to and from my new school, and with the seemingly perpetual upheaval that goes into starting up a brand new school.  On the weekends I've found that I move very slowly and do no school work at all, which puts me behind in a way, but I need the time to recharge.
Last night I went out to see a band (Dave and  Phil Alvin) and wore my favorite cowboy shirt and boots with spurs.  (This is by no means country music--it's Americana, more rockabilly sort of--sped-up urban scrappy rock-n-roll.)  I am so glad I got out of the house.  I have a tendency to just want to stay in and knit or read--but the music was sublimely infectious.

Last week I planted flowers in long neglected planters and bought a pot of bright yellow chrysanthemums.  Each day when I came home this week they made me smile.
I also hung some orange Halloween lights across the porch and put our favorite pumpkin light in the window.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ideas for Knitting

Some time ago my husband bought me a book about knitting.  Unusual, I know.  He is the kind of man who often buys people little gifts when he sees something he thinks will appeal to them.  But, a book about knitting is kind of specialized, don't you think?
Well, I think you will agree that this knitting book (originally published in 1972) is quite out of the ordinary.

It contains all the usual yarn, needle, and basic "how to" information with diagrams.  But the best part are the projects!  No baby items here.  There is a dog bed however.

This book encourages a man to use tools he may be already more familiar with, but utilize them in a whole new way.  As in this circular knitting idea:

Or this way to make really big needles for creating a hammock:

Nutty, isn't it?  I wonder if any man--or woman--has actually tried these ideas?  It might make an interesting experiment.

Meanwhile, I am knitting dishcloths (pattern here).

 I started this one while college football was on in the next room, and now I can only think of it as team colors.  Not exactly what I planned.
Progress on this will be slow as I only have about one day a week to knit and then only a few stolen minutes.  But that's okay.  I deliberately chose a small project so that at least it will be complete before spring!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hodgepodge of Late August

It's been a busy time as I am still immersed in adjusting to the school routine--getting up with the moon and out onto a major highway by 6 a.m.!  This means, of course, that I have to get to bed earlier too, so all dinner and chores, etc. have to be done efficiently.  Blah!
I am looking forward to the upcoming long weekend.

In my running around, I saw this fun bicycle and just had to take a picture. It isn't my bike, though it looks like fun if you don't have any hills to climb.  I've been out on my bike a bit (after having it tuned up because my son's friend borrowed it and crashed three minutes after taking it out, destroying the handbrake and giving himself a bloody knee).

I also saw this moth one morning last week when I was out at the a.m. bus duty.  After the kids were safely off the bus and into the school, I dashed in to get my camera and was happy happy that when I came back out, the moth was still there clinging to the window ledge where the light shone on his enormous self.

My son's keep me smiling.
One by sending this funny picture from his new job which looks like an album cover.  (And I can't feel too sorry for myself getting up at the crack of dawn because as he is currently leaving one job and going to another, he's working both--getting in at 6 a.m. to the first job, and leaving the second, new, job at 8 p.m. !)

And the other son, by not recognizing this item which came in a bunch of records my husband ordered (45's from the early 1960s all in Korean or Hindi or Swedish--)
He had seen it as a design on a t-shirt but thought it was a logo or some kind. Haha!

Anyway, this has turned into quite a hodgepodge post, but oh well.  The weather is turning just a little bit cooler, especially at night, so the leaves on the dogwood have started--ever so slightly--to change.  It's a happy sign of September.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Folk Art and Friends

Earlier this summer, an artist friend of ours came to town because she had several pieces in local art exhibits.  My favorite pieces of hers were little boxes filled with seemingly incongruent objects that somehow pulled together to suggest a narrative (to me--always the story finder).  I loved this box with the crow best of all.  He didn't  sell at the exhibit (it was more of a "tasteful glazed bowl" type of exhibition really), and so just a week or so ago (time has really gotten away from me now that school is back in), our friend came back to town with him--the crow--and we were able to buy him.  I just love him!

I really have been so incredibly busy with school, and getting up and leaving the house before 6 a.m., that blogging has been sadly neglected along with many other little pleasures.  Honestly, I have knit a scarf that only has 16 or so more rows and each Friday I am sure that I will be done by the weekend, and yet it hasn't happened.
However, I did get the chance to go to the Folk Art Festival which I always enjoy.  It's fun to stroll by the booths and browse.
Not art really, but part of a bunch of "junk" in a side room!

I liked the ax.  It was about he irony of an ax handle being made of wood.

Today we went off to an old family friend's birthday celebration.

And here it is Sunday night again, and if I don't get to bed I'll be in trouble when that alarm goes off.
More soon!
Hope you are all enjoying these end-of-the-summer days.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Little More Wilderness Before School Starts

Summer still has a full fiery month to burn.  Oddly, to me, school starts up at the top of August. Why we start school at the peak of this long lethargic season is a mystery to me.  I know it costs huge amounts of money to air condition the schools.  Sports teams and the marching band are always facing heat alerts.  Girls wear the teeniest bit of clothing possible.  The rest of the world may be on vacation, but those of us here are headed into the classroom.  An optimal time for learning, I am sure--Not.

We've been out in the woods again--in spite of the heat and insects.
Here was a happy little guy feasting on mushrooms.  (Even if squirrels do steal my tomatoes, I still like them a lot.)

And all insects aren't annoying.  Really, most of them are amazing and beautiful.

We saw this beaver lazily paddling along.  His body is buoyant and boat like.  I don't think he could sink if he tried.  

And here's all that's left of some early settler's place up along the Chattahooche River.  Once again I admire the scrappiness of the people who put together a life in this type of wilderness.

Well, back to school then.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Celebrating Summer's Vegetables

Summer is on in its full and mighty heat.  The sky is often (to quote Tennessee Williams) 'like a big white sheet of paper.'  Cicada choruses buzz.  Ripping storms pelt the earth for awhile, then subside temporarily.  Hours of withering sun scorch between periods of incessant damp.

I find myself staying indoors behind bamboo shades.  But plants love this weather and thrive. We have been lucky to eat our own grown vegetables most days, supplementing it with some we buy from farmer's markets.  In the last few weeks, squirrels (I think) have stolen all of the tomatoes, and the peppers are not nearly as productive as last year.  But, I have not given up hope.

Too hot now for sugar snaps.

Happy Eggplant--My #1 Favorite!

Grown and gifted to me by a neighbor!!

Health-wise, I try to eat 2.5 cups of vegetables each day and 2 cups of fruit.  This is surprisingly hard for me.  When hungry, I tend to eat a piece of bread or crackers (or cookies, I admit).  I am trying to shift that.  It takes concentration!

Making Asian soup stock

Using veg NOT grown by me
In summer, everything tastes so good and fresh. My son pointed out that there is an emphasis on the word fresh in reference to food lately that he finds annoying.  He is right about the emphasis, though I don't think it is annoying at all.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


When I was very, very small this book lived in the top of my mother's closet.  Lying on her bed, I could see it up there.  I remember my mother telling me the title which intrigued me even before I was old enough to read.

Years later and in a different house, I pulled this book out of a collection on a shelf of my mother's books one summer when I was looking for something to read.  I was surprised and excited to find that the main character was a kid.  It hadn't occurred to me that a book for grown-ups would have a child main character.

This book, to me, a thirteen year old white girl living in New Mexico, was a sort of primer on the American South.  All the concern about social class and identity was as foreign to me as screen porches, swept yards, and collards.  I remember being captivated by the trial section of the book.  The injustice was terrible to me, although not unexpected.  I remember when I read the line "Hey, Boo!" I cried so much the words on the page blurred.

Many years passed and I found myself living in the South.  I was delighted by real screen porches, "haints" and "hot steams."  Just like in To Kill a Mockingbird, women were known by "Miss" and their first names.  This puzzled me, but seemed harmless.  Less harmless were racially prejudiced and assumptive comments given as asides in many conversations with older white people.  I was uncomfortable at parties where the black housekeeper served food, cleaned up, and took care of children while the hosts lounged in chairs discussing golf.  I didn't understand people's pride in the civil war, a war the South lost and fought to keep others enslaved.

And then, I came to teach in schools where the majority of students were black.  Most of my students were not born in the South.  Most of them had been shuffled through as many schools as their age.  Many were living with a single parent, grandparent, aunt, or affiliate who was hoping to give them a better life in a suburb where inexpensive housing and trailer homes were nestled in amongst modest subdivisions and farmlands.  The kids wore their idea of "the hood" like armor.  Residents of the modest subdivisions and many teachers I worked with saw the neighborhood "turning" and jumped to "get out of the hell hole" (an exact quote).

The book I had to teach to ninth graders was To Kill a Mockingbird.  Repeatedly in the beginning of the book kids would ask me, "Wait, is this girl white or black?" Or, "So, is Dill black?"   And they would slumber through the book until the trial part, which they found somewhat engaging--but which I found to be almost intolerable as I realized that this was a sort of self-congratulatory story about a white man who stands to assuage white people's guilt.  The students were less uncomfortable--truly because some were really only pretend reading--but more importantly because for them, that's the way with stories, with books.  The black man loses, the white man wins, and da, da, da. School, books. Yeah, yeah. Boring.

I only taught this book once.  Eventually most teachers at my school (the ones who stayed) decided to teach something else.  I don't think of this as a loss.  After all, I found To Kill a Mockingbird on my own.  I never read it in school.  I still think that is the way people find the best books anyway.  The book is still out there; people still read it.  And it is still special to me in its own way.  But it isn't holy.  It's a story.

Now, some people are up in arms about Go Set a Watchman, a draft of a story that maybe was never meant to be published.  I am not up in arms.  In fact, I'm not really interested in reading Go Set a Watchman. I understand very well how a writer sets what she knows or thinks to be true on a paper, and how the story takes over and shifts and changes and tells the writer a truth she might not have wanted to know.  I know very well how you have to dump everything out of a story, like dumping out a drawer, and resort and make something new.  I have little interest in analyzing Lee's work in this way.  I've had enough of Harper Lee's South.  There are many, many other books I want to read--many, many other places I want books to take me to.

The clamor over this new book tells me though, that stories move people.  A story can shake someone to the core.  A story!  And to me--that is really, really cool.