B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bear)

I plan to loll about tomorrow at Rebecca’s with all the girls, finishing what we’re now calling New Year gifts. They will all be documented and easily reproducible; I may even cut out a paper knife and fork wreath for the youngest, who I now refer to as the Good Child.

Tonight, in honor of New Year’s eve, I’ll transcribe Tolstoy’s description of a party that seems to have gotten slightly out of hand. My fondness for this scenario proves definitively that it’s best I’m not strong enough to rip a window frame out of a wall with my bare hands. My absolute favorite part of this novel (War and Peace) is where Nikolai Rostov is lying face down on a battlefield, thinking how outrageous it is that people are trying to shoot him because his mom thinks he’s a total sweetheart. It’s strangely convincing. But this is pretty good, too:

Pierre threw off his cloak and entered the first room….From the third room came sounds of scuffling, laughter, familiar voices shouting, and the growl of a bear….A man of medium height, with clear blue eyes, whose voice was particularly striking among all those drunken voices for its tone of sobriety, called from the window: “Come over here and look after the bets.” This was Dolohov, an officer of the Semeonovsk regiment, a notorious gambler and daredevil who was making his home with Anatole. Pierre smiled, looking about him gaily. “I don’t understand. What’s it all about?”

“Stop, he’s not drunk,” cried Anatole; and taking a glass from the table he went up to Pierre. Anatole kept his glass filled while he explained that Dolohov had laid a wager…backing himself to drink a bottle of rum sitting on the sill of the third floor window with his legs hanging down outside….The bottle of rum was brought. Two footmen, evidently rather flustered and made nervous by the orders and shouts from all sides, were pulling at the sash frame which prevented anyone from sitting on the outer sill….Pierre seized hold of the crossbar, gave it a wrench and the oak frame came away with a crash. “Take it right out, or they’ll think I’m holding on,” said Dolohov….With a bottle of rum in his hand, Dolohov jumped on to the windowsill…Pressing with both hands against the sides of the frame he settled himself into a sitting position, let go his hands, shifted a little to the right, then to the left, and took up the bottle….he turned round again, let his hands drop, took the bottle and lifted it to his lips, threw his head back and raised his free hand to balance himself….The bottle was emptying visibly, rising almost perpendicularly over his head. “Why does it take so long?” thought Pierre. It seemed to him as though more than half an hour had elapsed. Suddenly Dolohov made a backward movement of the spine and his arm trembled nervously; this was sufficient to cause his whole body to slide as he sat on the sloping edge. As he slipped, his head and arm wavered still more violently with the strain. One hand moved as if to clutch the windowsill but he brought it back. Pierre shut his eyes once more …Suddenly he was conscious of a general stir. He looked up: Dolohov was standing on the windowsill, his face pale but triumphant….Pierre dashed up to the window. “Come along then,” cried Pierre. “Come along…And we’ll take Bruin with us.” And he caught the bear up in his arms and began dancing round the room with it.

(excerpted from Rosemary Edmonds’ translation)

If I recall correctly, Dolohov later seduces Pierre’s wife, forcing Pierre to shoot him, in spite of the utter tedium of his marriage. This does not go over well, but I say Dolohov should have remembered Pierre’s ability to do demolition work without a crowbar, even though the fact that Pierre spends most of the novel taking his reading glasses off and putting them back on may have been slightly misleading.



Be careful when you Google "bear." I've just seen some terrible things.

Be careful when you Google “bear.” I’ve just seen some terrible things.

As I was explaining why New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me, my daughter heaved a sigh and said, “Anything else you’d like to talk about?”

Why, yes, sweetheart, there is.

I’d like to thank you, Nadia, Rebecca and Jane for encouraging me to write, Rebecca for offering to share her favorite log and to go to a museum exhibit entirely devoted to ice, and Nadia for interviewing an origami enthusiast on my behalf. I had no idea what to say. (And yes, Nadia, I will write it all up.)

I’d also like to thank everyone who read what I wrote, especially Jane (who always comments), and the lovely woman at silkandwool.eu, who shared a wonderful pattern and whose blog apparently directs people here to stare at weird thing I did with it. You won me with the tagline to your blog: “I knit so that I won’t kill people.” How true. And for those unfamiliar with the bowels of WordPress, every little flag it displays from Singapore, Belgium, Ukraine or France warms my heart.

I guess I’ll keep writing. I’m waiting for War and Peace to show up in the library shipment tomorrow so I can share my all-time favorite (imaginary) party. It involves bears, at least in my memory. I had no idea I was so deeply interested in bears until I began this blog. I’ve learned so much. Possibly more than I wanted.
Image: The White Bear King Valemon, by Theodor Kittlesen – public domain

Christmas: the residue

It looked beautiful until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

It looked beautiful until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

I used to go all Norwegian on Christmas Eve – open flames, hard liquor, unwrapping all the presents and midnight church attendance, when available. I could not care less about Christmas Day. In my family, that was recovery time: turkey sandwiches with dill havarti and coffee with whipping cream instead of half and half.

Motherhood has made me cautious, and even lazier – no candles, no vodka, no cooking. I asked my daughter what she wanted for Christmas Eve dinner. She said she wanted bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, which I joyfully provided. Later she said she was being sarcastic, which is very unattractive in someone that young. She ate all her sandwiches, though. She also opened all her presents, most of which were games – Apples to Apples, Balderdash, Clue, Yahtzee, Taboo. I like to find a theme and stick with it. Luckily, Rebecca and her daughters were on hand to provide opponents. After they left, we began to drowse over our backlog of unfinished Christmas presents, until the arrival of guests we had forgotten about inviting. (That is not unusual, and no reflection on their charm and wit.) We had not yet stripped down to t-shirts and underpants, so we were able to welcome them with a certain amount of poise. The gaming continued without me, but I refereed and churned out six pattern repeats of a hand towel for Rebecca’s mother.

We aren’t quite done with Christmas; I worked at the library yesterday and ate almost nothing but chocolate. I’d be sick if I had the energy. There are either fireworks or the beginning of a gun battle on the mainland, further proof that some families should restrict their interaction to Facebook. Our beautiful tree is gone, sent to E’s grandmother for safekeeping. The house is trashed although we only had six people over. Unfinished presents are now designated New Year’s gifts. There are rumblings about skating and a game night in January. My head hurts.

And yet I am so happy. My daughter had a lovely time. Rebecca and I are going to try to see the show, Vanishing Ice, at the museum in town. Thurid gave me one of the books I photographed for her. It’s so beautiful I had tears in my eyes when I opened the package. I did kundalini yoga this morning, which is like doing magic (I imagine). And I’ll confess that I am madly infatuated with someone I don’t know at all. No one will tell him, and that is, with no exaggeration, safer. But I haven’t felt this way for years, so I’m glad I have evidence that the ice in my tiny, black little heart has melted. And I will not do anything stupid.

Winter Solstice


For the winter solstice, which is tomorrow at 9:11 in the morning (PST), I give you Carl Larssen‘s portrait of his daughter, Brita. She is dressed as the Norse goddess Iduna in her traditional role: taunting peasants gnawing on lye-soaked codfish with the memory of fresh fruit.

The Ursid meteor showers are one of the happy features of this solstice. They began yesterday, and should peak on the 21st or 22nd. I’d love to get my child out of bed before dawn on the 22nd to watch the sky, but I don’t think it will happen unless I can drag her and her mattress out on the porch.

I don’t know why I love this so much; it’s the live ships map on http://www.marinetraffic.com. I had no idea this existed – you can click on the little boats, and they have pictures and names and everything.

I need to get to sleep.