I forgot to hibernate, but would like to do so now.

I haven’t written anything for a while because I’ve been exhausted. I wrestled a goat in the hallway of my friend Mary’s house last week. Mary had been very sick, so I was over there putting a mint on her pillow and fluffing up her bathrobe when the neighbor’s goats broke in. I trapped the ringleader before she got to the kitchen, where she would have had far too much room to maneuver. I pinned her against the wall – it’s amazing what rage can accomplish – and dragged her out the door again, where her two sisters were having a battle on the porch. It really is lucky that I knew them all (I used to milk their mother), because they outweigh me now. It wasn’t especially tiring, just symptomatic of the complications that surround everything I do right now.

I could just go hide at home, which is becoming increasingly difficult to access. There’s a medieval looking trap at the end of the driveway (see above), and a spring has erupted in the middle of the curve. It’s not just a damp patch; bubbling has been observed. I drive around it, up into the weeds. It is not, thank God, blackberry season. I have no doubt that our local blackberry bushes can catch and hold a Volvo station wagon. The fatalism acquired from a family full of refugees from Ukraine is serving me well. True, the branch might fall on my car, or my driveway might become impassable, but again, they might not, and there’s not much I can do about either possibility, since I don’t have a backhoe or a bucket truck. My daughter will, in any case, be fine, because she’s like that. I could at least blame my landlord for not dealing with the tree, but he’s elderly, his handyman has disappeared into the woods (not a joke), and the one time he tried to replace something up here (the stove), I pitched a fit because I’d just cleaned it with toothpicks and some PineSol. (I don’t actually cook with the stove – I use it for storage.) I’m pretty much left to my own devices now.

There’s a sound track to all this, because a library patron came in and gave me the collected works of Richard Thompson; I hadn’t listened to him for a long time, although I remember seeing him open for Elvis Costello, who brought him out and then genuflected his way off the stage. Elvis Costello was rather disappointing, afterwards.

Here are sample lyrics from Richard’s early days with Fairport Convention: “It was all I could do to keep myself from taking vengeance in blood….”followed by a wailing chorus of “Oh, helpless and slow, and you don’t have anywhere to go.”

He perked up a bit, later on; try When the Spell is Broken, and Walking on a Wire, featuring the lovely voice of Linda Thompson. Never Again is gorgeous, unless you’re feeling sad, in which case it’s lethal.

The curse of the boyfriend sweater


There’s a persistent bit of knitting folklore known as the curse of the boyfriend sweater; the version I’ve heard most often is that if you start a sweater for a boyfriend, he will dump you before the sweater is finished. (This assumes, of course, that you didn’t start knitting the sweater for that very reason. If you did, you have my sympathy, although I am concerned that you are not being properly medicated. See your doctor.

I don’t know why I’m so interested by the idea of a knitting curse. I’ve only knit one complete sweater and three-quarters of another one for my daughter (began it when she was two – she’s read the Hunger Games trilogy recently). Clearly, sweaters are not TV knitting for me; they’re I-need-to-concentrate-and-do-you-mind-eating-cereal-for-dinner-again knitting. As I’ve said before, I’m really a TV knitter, and hence unlikely to endanger any relationship with a lopapeysa.

I guess my take on it is this – do most men really like hand knit sweaters? There’s something about sweaters that suggests your mother dressed you. Maybe men leave because they dread having to wear one. Guys: seriously, just tell your knitter your beautiful sweater was eaten by a pack of feral dogs when you took it on a camping trip (…the damnedest thing, honey; they must have thought I was a sheep…). This is unlikely to trigger a repeat sweater, unless your sweetheart would secretly like to see you torn to shreds. In that case, I think you should leave. Quickly.

More vintage knitting patterns

knitting mag 4

Has anyone else heard of the “S-stripe”? According to the pattern, that is what’s on the front of the sweater on the left. I had no idea such a thing existed. Those colors are a little bright for me, though, and the headbands would make me feel like a shepherd in a Christmas pageant, so I will not try to reproduce this look.

The ensemble on the right, however…I wouldn’t wear it all at once, partly because my daughter would refuse to get in the car with me until I took it off, but I would definitely wear the blouse by itself, or the hat. I think I would also wear the sweater with a navy pleated skirt, but only with my hair in a Moomintroll style topknot.

This may just indicate that I need help; if any friends reading this would like to send sad pictures of me to one of those makeover shows, be my guest. I think I’m beyond the reach of Oprah.

Happy birthday to Miss Emily Eden

NPG 6455; Emily Eden by Simon Jacques Rochard

She would have insisted on the “Miss.” Emily Eden was an English writer and traveler, and a remarkable and talented woman. She traveled to India when she was quite young (her brother was Governor-General there); her letters about her travels was later published in Up the Country. She is also the author of two very funny novels that I read whenever I’m in a really bad mood: The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House. She can be obnoxious, with all the prejudices of a 19th century aristocrat, but she creates wonderful characters, and she is never, ever, ever boring.

Her favorite novelist was Jane Austen, and it shows, although there’s a bit of Charles Dickens lurking in Semi-Detached.

Her portrait is courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, and is offered for limited, non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.

The vanishing world of ice


“Vanishing Ice,” the exhibit at the Whatcom History Museum, has been extended until March 16. I saw it on Friday, because I love looking at things that people classify as art and had a mournful feeling that I should learn more about climate change. I was a little sad that many of the paintings are reproductions, but as soon as I got there I was so overwhelmed by the images of the ice that I barely paid attention to anything else. Two of my favorite children’s books are The Golden Compass and East (a novel based on the Norwegian story East of the Sun and West of the Moon), and I loved the evil snow queen in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. All my fantasy landscapes are encrusted with snow, ornamented with fur and reindeer bone, and infested with wolves.

Here is the beautiful ice: I loved Len Jenshel’s Narsaq Sound, Greenland, and Grand Pinnacle Iceberg, East Greenland, by Camille Seaman. I also liked Beechey’s illustration of the HMS Hecla in Baffin Bay, and Paraselene an illustration from Scott’s last 1912 expedition. The illustrator, Dr. Edward Wilson, died on that expedition along with Robert Scott. Ice Lens, by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, is also lovely, although I hope they at least send a Christmas card or something to Andy Goldsworthy).

Tiina Itkonen photographed Uummannaq, the village I would like to live in, proving that I am completely mad.

I did, however, find Chris Linder’s photograph of the melting Siberian permafrost at Duvannyi Yar pretty distressing. Frank Hurley’s photograph of Shackleton’s boat trapped in the ice at night is awesome, in the oldest sense of the word – it’s the livid ghost of a tragedy. And Chris Jordan’s Denali Denial is both witty and despairing, the picture that pulled me out of my icy dream.

The icy dream at the top of the post is not from the exhibition; it’s a photograph provided by dmdzine under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license. Thank you.