Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Intention

It’s that time of year again! People are celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. But is it really the last day of the year? Some time ago (and I haven’t looked it up) March 1st was the beginning of the year. Really, the calendar is an arbitrary convenience adopted by most of the world as a planning tool. The Chinese New Year, though, is February 3rd, which marks the year of the rabbit. For the rest of us it’s just 2011.

Numerologically, 2011 is going to require some measure of effort. It is a year when partnerships, with work, can build or re-establish strong foundations. There is much potential here and much hope. As the second year in the second decade of the millennium, 2011 emphasises the need for cooperation and challenges us to use our own personal strengths for the greater good rather than to serve our individual needs.

The first day of 2011 is represented by the number 6. A day for family, it is a good time to clear the air, forgive and empower loved ones with encouragement and support.

My first duty this New Year’s Eve is to smudge my house. A good deal of negative energy has accumulated over the past several months and so I have decided that I need to ritually clear it and invite positive energy back in. It’s been a while since I have smudged and I am looking forward to the spiritual uplifting that this simple rite invokes. January is to be a time of healing in this house; a time to let go and become empty again. I have let secular interests overshadow spiritual ones and it is now time to re-prioritize, cleanse my chakras and seek out the sacred in myself once again. (I know it’s in there somewhere!)

I am loathe to use the term resolution. I suppose it is, but I prefer intention as a way of expressing my determination for the new year. Change is never easy and after so much doubt I doubt that everything I intend will manifest. But I will try. And I guess that is the point, isn’t it? To try. And to keep trying.

They say that in order to achieve anything, you have to start with the desired result and work backward. The Law of Attraction is based on this simple premise: visualize what you want and believe that it is so. Behave as if you already have what you want and it will naturally happen. Sounds so simple. (If I behaved like I made a hundred grand a year, I’d be in big trouble! LOL)

Anyway, I’m going to go and jump in the shower, get dressed, have some lunch, tidy the house, put away the holiday trimmings and get prepared for my evening. I’m making split pea soup and corn meal muffins for supper tonight. It’s going to be a busy afternoon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sneak Preview

Yesterday afternoon I finished the front of Bizz's sweater. Last night I started the sleeves. It appears it is time for a sneak preview of what this yarn is aspiring to be.

This shows how the colours blend.

This is what the skeins look like.

This is the moss stitch detail at the neck line. The neck is split and then rounded.

This is the start of the sleeves with the moss stitch detail at the cuffs. The sleeves are wide and straight and will be set in at the shoulders like a blouse.

The front and back are ready for blocking. I'll do that this afternoon - if I can find something big enough to block them on. I'll have to get creative as the styrofoam I use to block knitting projects on is not big enough for both. Might have to do one at a time!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Things are Shaping Up

Things are shaping up. After a bit of an interruption to deal with all things holiday, I was able to return to The Sweater last night and work on the neck line. I think it’s going to work!

At least I’m very hopeful.

I have a plan for the neck line that is making sense now that I’m actually knitting it. I can see where I’m going and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My goal is to finish the front today. The sleeves will go quickly, I think. With a bit of luck, I might have it done in by the end of the week.

With my new Sweater Wizard, my next project is going to be a sweater based on my favourite sweat shirt. The sweat shirt is no longer wearable – except maybe as a painting shirt or something – but I can’t bring myself to just toss it out. Once the new sweater pattern is done, I hope to find some way to re-purpose the sweat shirt. I just can’t think of anything to make it into, though I’m sure that Bizz will be able to help me out.

The new design will be quite simple: drop sleeves, round neck, ribbed cuffs. On the front will be a large Om in a contrasting colour to the main body. Bizz suggested teal with a purple Om. I’m leaning toward black with a red Om. What I would really like is black with a rainbow Om. But I think I would have to get the Om yarn custom dyed in order to make that happen.

Anyway, I’m feeling inspired. If this tunic works out as well as it appears to be, I’m sure that the sweat shirt will be a breeze. If the sweat shirt works out, there’s no telling what might come next. There’s an idea for a cardigan floating around in my head. But it’s still quite hazy and vague. No need to rush it. With the tunic and the sweat shirt on the front burners, there’s plenty of time for it to gel.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Yule

It’s two days before the Big Day. It doesn’t feel like it. I’m not ready. Once again I’m choked because my holiday passed relatively un-celebrated and unacknowledged by most and feel forced to participate in a holiday that has no meaning for me.

For the past 30 years I have tried to shift my thinking about the holidays. I’ve tried to convince myself that it doesn’t matter what anybody calls it, it’s still Yule. I’ve tried to tell myself that it’s okay to celebrate on a different day. I’ve tried to give myself permission to enjoy it as it is even though it isn’t what it is.

I conducted an informal survey about the holiday this year. I’ve asked people what they celebrate on December 25th and, much to my surprise, have discovered that a significant portion of the population simply goes with the flow. They are not “celebrating” anything in particular and do not subscribe any particular meaning to the holiday. “It’s just Christmas,” some say. It appears that they are more or less just decorating and exchanging presents because that’s what you are expected to do on Christmas.

I asked if they knew what the word Christmas means and one woman replied, “It means an enormous Visa bill in January.” A lot of people shrugged. A few asked me, “What do you mean, what does it mean?” I thought that was very interesting.

A few people said that it is Christ’s birthday, while looking at me like I had two heads for asking. When I asked if they believed that Christ was born on December 25th, they invariably said yes. How do you know, I asked. Because the bible says so. I read the bible. It doesn’t say that Jesus (Christ is derived from the word Christos and is not a name, but rather a state of being that we are all equally entitled and capable of aspiring to) was born on December 25th. It doesn’t say when he was born, but people who have studied these things think that it is more likely that, if he was born at all, it would have been in March sometime, based on cosmic phenomena that took place around the year 1, which is also off by some 30 years or so.

I asked people if they knew where traditions like the tree came from. Most had no idea. Some suggested that it was just a nice idea that someone came up with and it stuck. A few said that it stemmed from pagan times, but were unclear as to its exact meaning or origin. I asked about the star and was told (by most) that it represents the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. When I told them that it began as a representation of the sun, many responded by saying that they put angels on their trees anyway.

The exchange of gifts was connected by some as a re-enactment of the wise men presenting frankincense, myrrh and gold to the baby Jesus. No one knew that the stocking thing originated with a St. Nicholas legend. Only two people had any idea who St. Nicholas even was. The feast? Well, that’s just what people do when they get together – which is very true!

One business person said that Christmas was about selling enough goods to keep his store open for the rest of the year. Wow!

One Christian person said that Santa Claus was an abomination! When I asked her if she knew who St. Nicholas was, she responded by saying that saints were also abominations. Then she walked away. I didn’t really know what to make of that. Still don’t. I guess miracles have limited credence for her.

While my survey provided little in the way of specific or scientific data, it did confirm what I already suspected: modern-day Christmas is essentially a commercial enterprise upheld by those satisfied with maintaining the status quo. For some it is a religious holiday. For many it is a paid day off.

Come Saturday morning, there will be presents under the tree that stands in my living room, a tree that symbolizes nature’s promise that winter is but a time of rest and renewal. I will invite to my table a few loved ones to partake in a repast that represents assurance that we will survive these dormant months. I will silently give thanks for the good things that the spring, summer and fall have provided and then I will prepare a plate to leave outside for... well, for the spirits of nature (even though I know the dogs will eat it). In Native culture, it is believed that leaving a plate of food for the Grandfathers (ancestors) will ensure that you will not go hungry, that you will always be provided for. I rather like that idea.

Whatever people believe and practice, the holiday will happen, set in stone, as it is, on the last page of the Gregorian calendar for all to anticipate throughout the year. Just barely off-set from the solstice, the (observed) holiday, usurped by the church in a manner designed to assuage the pagans, has become so secular and lost in the commercialism of the times that it must struggle to convey anything else. And struggle it does, along with the people who follow so blindly into the seduction of material greed and impulse that has somehow become woven into the festival. And, sadly, I too am have fallen prey to that.

Why is it so much easier to go along than it is to stand up for anything? This is my meditation on this second to last shopping day before the Big Day. And while I dash about picking up the last stocking stuffers and the last-minute groceries, I will ponder once again my place in this strange society. Is it my duty to my community to support this nonsense? Or should I be an advocate for change? (The latter would certainly be easier on my bank account!)

Though the solstice has passed, I wish everyone a very Happy Yuletide season. May whatever meaning you embrace in this winter holiday bring you peace and joy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sock Blunder, Design Wonder!

So, knitting again. I think it’s dominating my thoughts so that the holidays don’t. Or maybe I’m getting obsessed. I’m really not sure.

I just finished a pair of socks for a friend. The first sock turned out beautifully, the colours, the pattern the shaping all in perfect harmony. It was one of those stitch patterns that allowed me to zone a bit as I was confident that my hands knew what to do.

And, for the most part, they did.

As I was moving into the home stretch, though, I noticed an anomaly (aka glaring screw-up) in my work. The heel was the wrong colour. It was supposed to be Autumn Heather, but instead it was Verdant Heather. I had a couple of options: a) I could just make the toe Autumn Heather and explain to my friend that I had made a mistake, certain that she would find it amusing, but still love the socks; or b) I could rip it out and fix the error, leaving my friend none the wiser. I chose a.

At the time it seemed like a good idea. With limited time to get the socks finished and delivered before she left on a trip back east, the extra uniqueness would just add to the fun of getting – and giving - a pair of home-made socks. So, I carried on, knit the toe in Autumn Heather and finished the pair.

I never used to block my socks. It seemed like a waste of time to me. But the more I read and the more I learned about designing and marketing knitwear, my opinion of blocking changed and I incorporated it into my practice. It was at this juncture that I discovered another gaffe, this one of embarrassing and enormous proportions. The socks, you see, are striped and, somehow – likely during one of those zoned moments – I managed to miss an entire stripe of colour just above the heel.

I gasped! I hung my head in shame! I may have even keened a lament!

Again, I had options. A) toss the faulty sock and start again. B) pick out the sewn in ends, rip it back to the mistake, fix it and knit the heel and toe in their proper colours. C) give my friend the socks as they were – severely flawed – and knit a replacement for the defective one. I chose C. I only had two days and I would never get another sock done in that short time. There was another option. I could have just knit the replacement and given her the socks when she got back from her trip and she would have never known. But I didn’t. Hind sight!

It’s all good, though. I’ve learned a lesson – no zoning when knitting socks! Or anything for that matter.

This new rule will be applied to the nth degree in my latest project; a sweater that I am designing from scratch for my daughter. I’ve never actually made a sweater that I’ve designed, so the no zoning rule may be unnecessary as I am forced to pay strict attention to what I’m doing. So far it’s going better than I expected. Then again, I’m still working on the back of the sweater – the easy part.

I have to admit that I sort of cheated on the math. While I love figuring out the gauge and doing the math for socks, a sweater is an entirely different sort of beast, so I purchased a program called Sweater Wizard into which I plugged in all the measurements and the gauge and – voila! – it spit out a pattern. The pattern is not complete in detail. It does, however, give me the basics and to them I’m improvising the details.

As I knit, I’m jotting down copious notes and taking lots of measurements. Adjusting the pattern here and tweaking it there and recording the changes and results. I originally estimated that the actual knitting would take about four months, but now I think I can do it in half that time. Unless, of course, my improv skills are not up to snuff! We’ll see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Holidays

My how things have changed!

My holiday gift wish list consists of four things - rims for my summer tires so I don’t have to pay gobs of money to get them switched twice a year.

It used to be a hard and fast rule of mine that holiday gifts had to be personal. Practical items, such as (and maybe even particularly) kitchen appliances, were strictly forbidden. The idea that I would request, let alone be excited about the prospect of receiving, a set of rims for my summer tires was unheard of. Unfathomable! Grounds for instant divorce! (At least a few nights in the proverbial doghouse.)

Yet this year, the only thing I really want is a set of rims. They don’t even have to be new. In fact, I’d prefer a used set, which is greener and less wasteful.

Practical is the new personal in my life, apparently. Whereas ten years ago, I would have beamed lethal lasers from my eyes if such a present turned up under the tree, I now find myself insisting on the useful rather than the indulgent. What has happened to me?

Age has certainly mellowed me as far as trinkets and baubles go. The notion that anyone would waste money on expensive jewelry has always made me cringe, but a gargoyle or a deck of tarot cards or some such would make my eyes light up like… a kid on Christmas morning. Now that I’ve retired as a Tarot reader and the gargoyles just need constant dusting, these things no longer invoke delight. Keep your decorative bits and pieces. Save your bubble bath and fancy candles. Stay your Visa card and hold your pocket book. Things are not necessary.

No one has actually asked me what I want this year. And that is not a bad thing. I don’t really care if I get anything at all. I’ll have my grandkids – I think – and I’ll have my friends and two of my kids around. I’ll have my fake fire place and my fake tree and some good books and some good movies. I’ll have my ever-present knitting bag and oodles of yarn to play with. I’ll have a feast (somewhere). I’ll have a week off work. I’ll have my dogs and my cat. I’ll have chocolate and chips and cookies and pop and other sundry junk food to munch on. What more, really, do I need?

I remember holiday wish lists a mile long, filled with things that I never got anyway. I could never figure out why people asked you what you wanted and then didn’t oblige. One year – I was probably 4 or 5 – I asked for go-go boots. All I wanted was a pair of shiny, white, vinyl go-go boots so I could dance to Snoopy vs. the Red Barron properly – like the girls on TV. I didn’t get them. Perhaps it was because they didn’t make go-go boots for preschoolers, but I have my suspicions that it was more likely because my parents would not consent to such a request from their then youngest child. The disappointment still haunts me and I still long for a pair of go-go boots, particularly whenever I hear the Royal Guardsmen sing about that funny-looking dog with a big, black nose. Not that I would be caught dead wearing them.

It’s truly easier not to want than to be disappointed by not getting.

Needs, however, are a different matter. (Especially when you want them.) I can’t really decide if rims for my tires are a want or a need. While they are practical and useful and will save me money, I don’t know that they qualify as a definitive need. Then again, does anything? Besides food, water, clothing and shelter. (And even those are, to some esoteric degree, debatable.)

I doubt that I will find rims wrapped and under the tree this year. I think it is more likely that a new sofa is in the offing within the next two weeks. I don’t need a new sofa either, even though the current one should have been put out of its (my) misery two or three years ago. I’d be just as happy to sit on cushions on the floor, but the Lord of the Manor has vetoed the concept of no furniture, having deemed it would be perceived as a matter of poverty rather than choice and, not wanting to be pitied, let alone having to actually sit on the floor, he’s planning a trip to the Brick. So be it. (It just better be pet-friendly!)

As the days pass and my own holiday shopping continues to go unattended to, elevating my anxiety levels and making my Visa twitch uncontrollably in my wallet, as it does most years, I find myself wanting one more thing…

To skip the whole damned affair!