Acclimation.

The clouds are blinding, today.  Every day I check the sky.  I’m not looking for anything in particular, or to confirm any special condition.  But I check the sky, and almost every day it is different from the day before.  Shades of blue, of grey, of white.  Some whites are more grey, some are more silver.  Sometimes the blue of the sky is grey-blue, sometimes it is a pure, clear, pale blue, sometimes deep, the visual definition of “blue”.  They combine in different ways.  There are days when I step onto the little porch outside our apartment door and stand at the railing, and the sky is one color from horizon to horizon.  Another day, a quick glance tells me the same, but I make my eyes search from distance to distance and there may be a reward for my vigilance in the form of a ribbon of white, or a fluffy band along one edge.  Sometimes it rains and the sky is mottled and varying, and sometimes it rains and the sky is a pale, uniform grey, almost a soft white.

I began observing the sky for a few minutes each afternoon in the winter.  New Year’s Day, in fact, in agreement with some friends.  It felt, and still feels, like a unique opportunity to stay connected as we moved away from one another, this moment of observation, and later comparison.  It’s also been an unexpected opportunity to connect to my new habitat.

Strangers I meet here, when learning that we’ve relocated here from San Diego, like to ask if I’m used to the weather yet.  They often say it with a wry smile, expecting the worst, and many are surprised when I answer, “I’m not tired of it yet,” or more vehemently (especially after rainy days), “I love it.”  Depending on the inquiry, I may soften the answer with, “Obviously, ask me again after a few years,” but it’s been my dream weather, for the most part.

I stepped outside a few moments ago, expecting to see some variation on yesterday’s sky:  bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds.  But the white of the clouds was so blinding that I could barely see without squinting.  I couldn’t seem to turn away enough.  It took moments to tilt my head and shade my eyes before I could make out the blue and grey that were heathered behind the white.

It’s so easy to be my natural hermit here, when it is cool and windy and wet.  But checking in with the sky won’t let me.  It makes me step outside, this habit, and be a part of the world here.   Just the other day our neighbors from across the street stepped over and introduced themselves.  They said they see us come and go.  I wonder if they see me check the sky.

Advertisements

Transitions

The boys have gone on an adventure.  I’m sitting at our temporary, borrowed table in the kitchen of our rental (which we’ve dubbed the Slate House), looking out at a beautiful blue Craftsman house that is the neighbor across the street.  All the sounds are different and new.  There are birds that startle me with colors I’m not used to.  Our windows show people walking up and down the sidewalk where they once looked out on sky and phone wires.  This last is a disconcerting difference, as superimposing people walking where sky should be can be a shock.

I’ve been looking back on big moves in my past and I have come to a sad conclusion, namely, that I get homesick easily.  (Goodness knows I want to be Indiana Jones.  Who doesn’t?  Sigh…)  I’m excited and interested in our new home.  I want to give it the full chance it deserves.  I was a willing and decisive participant in the discussion, and in the conclusion.  Yet sadness does not easily banish.  So I’ve given myself a few days to be sad and then it has to go.  I don’t have time.  And today I am indulging in enjoying myself.  It’s good to establish happy days in the new locale.

I’m surrounded, on the temporary, borrowed table, by knitting.  Drawing materials.  A gardening book, and Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, which is really funny and also intriguing.  And Facebook, which although it may be a time suck that usually ends up at the bottom of my things-to-do list, has been very helpful today in reminding me that I can still be in contact with the people I miss and care about.  Thank you, FB!

I’ve also decided that if I have to leave the original Treehouse—the treehouse apartment back in San Diego—that I can take the spirit of the Treehouse with me.  So I’m renaming the blog Treehouse Tea.  That’s a happy thing too.  It works to remind myself that the aspects of the Treehouse and of San Diego that I value are things that can go with me, wherever.  Like drawing, and knitting, and eating sandwiches and drinking tea, and watching clouds and making jokes and trying to not be too judgy about things.  Reading books and sewing and playing with my guys.  Cats and fish and other friends.  None of this was endemic to one place or one city.  So, I brought a little bit with me, in the treehouse, inside.

Treehouse Tea

There’s a brilliantly painted yellow-and-blue boat outside of my window. This is an unusual occurrence, and it likely won’t happen again soon, after tomorrow morning. It says “Del Norte Sunrise Rotary Club Welcomes You”. It’s sitting on the grass, across an access road that runs behind our hotel room, as if yearning for the beach not far to the west. I can see the beach from the same window. Poor boat.

Behind the boat a fierce breeze is whipping the tall stands of grasses and fuchsia wildflowers, and behind them stands a backdrop of redwoods on a hilltop in the distance. For the first time today, they look small. Those redwoods have loomed above us since we took to the road this morning, leaving the Old West hotel in Willits, California, where we took possession of the Sheriff Room for the night. Ben asked if the Jail Room, next door, was likely to be less comfortable than ours; I honestly couldn’t say, though a brief glimpse through the open door of the Bunk House Room downstairs showed it to have a decorative washstand, with rose-painted pitcher, an amenity lacking in ours. The Sheriff Room did have a roll-top desk, however. Particularly good for the traveler who wishes to take care of some sheriffy business, or write a few letters. We did the crossword.

That was about 250 miles ago. We started this trip in San Diego, driving to Los Banos the first night (which no longer employs the tilde over the “n” in Banos. This I don’t understand. If you have the right to a tilde, why not use it? I wouldn’t mind a tilde. Or an umlaut). Los Banos boasted some tasty Mexican food and a friendly breakfast diner. But that seems so long ago. Tonight will be our last night in California before crossing tomorrow into Oregon, and it will be a while before we drive back, as we’re headed for our new home in Seattle. I haven’t ever not been a Californian.

Each morning of our drive Chris has delighted me with a bottle of hot tea for the drive, and has stretched himself to find restaurants and other places to eat. With each act he reminds me over and over that home is what we carry with us, it is the company we keep, the people and things we choose to surround ourselves with. The Atlas movers came last Thursday and emptied our apartment of our belongings, quite a bit thinned out but still plump with books and Legos and fiber goodness. Yet we were able to pack the car as well, with our suitcases and work monitors, artwork and stuffed animals, computers and pet fish. My basket of knitting is so much a part of me that I did not consider the room it would take, any more than I would worry that my arm wouldn’t fit in the car when we left. I’ve driven most of the way with it under my knees. All of these things help our home to be a space in which we like to live. Though I’m already feeling homesick for the friends and family so far to the south, this has been an interesting practice in reminding myself what it is that makes home be home: Chris in his yellow socks, reading. Ben, designing environments in Portal 2 near the open window. Mrs. P the fish and her companion George, existing in their halfway space of a lunch cooler and battery-operated oxygen bubbler. The knitting basket. The cup of tea. (Dandelion.) A book. Snacks. All of these things remind me how safe I am, how surrounded I am by my home. I don’t need them, but oh my, they do make life nice. For the first time in a long time, the home I return to after going out into the world is the car I use to go out into the world.

The treehouse is traveling.

Ravelry, my exercise in detachment.

It’s been established that I like to knit.  And in all the quiet spaces that leave me thinking of ways to put words one after another, I often think about sharing my knitting with the little blog.  And then, I don’t, for the simple reason that when night comes, and the Geeklet is abed, if I am awake, I want to knit.  Preferably, I knit while sitting next to my dear Chris and watch Endeavour, or maybe some Doctor Who.  I try not to do anything on my own computer after 10 pm.  It’s difficult to catch up with email sometimes, and I’m months behind on cool-beans articles and posts and XKCD, but it does seem to be the only method that keeps me from staying up until 2 in the morning.

 

And then?  I have a sweater done, and I haven’t shared it with you.  It becomes a little soft puddle of potential postedness.  It lays folded in my arms, a project completed, and it is a thing which I can use to put here!  If I post it… then it has been posted.  And there is no more potential posting.  The potential is spent, gone.  So sad.

 

However, letting go of things is important.  It’s called non-attachment.  I used to frown at the idea.  “I like my teapot,” I might muse.  “I like my son.  I like that quilt I just made.  And I feel unapologetic about liking those things.  So might I be bad at Buddhism?”  I’m not a Buddhist, as such, but like many I find the teachings to be good and useful things.  I like to think of Buddha as a big brother, the one who finished college while you were in high school, who disappeared into his room with a girlfriend and closed the door and you hated her, because when she wasn’t around he would show you his new CDs and photos of his hiking trip and you’d think he was so sophisticated, and you’d be so proud to be his sister.  So that’s kind of how I think of Buddha.  Wise and experienced, and well out of the whirlwind, and proud of you when you made grown-up choices, like being okay with giving up your teapot.

 

Then I saw, in a roundabout way, that it’s not about having to give up the teapot.  It’s about being okay with being separate from the teapot–in a different room, in a different house, in a different state of energy–because you and the teapot, you’re not really two separate things anyway.  If I close my eyes and envision the teapot filled with a gently steeped Darjeeling, the pot just too hot to touch, steam issuing from its wee spout, if I envision placing my hands around the pot so that a little pocket of air between my hands and the pot–remember, I’m not touching it, it’s too hot–becomes warm and a little damp, and I can taste the potential tea on my tongue and feel how relaxing and soothing that would be:  this experience can be as relaxing and soothing as the real thing.  And the teapot is not actually in my presence.  The teapot, and the entire experience, is not actually there with me, and yet I benefited from it.  Wild, no?

 

What does this have to do with Ravelry?

 

When I pick out a sweater I want to knit, these days, I go check it out on Ravelry.  I usually have the information on hand (sizing and whatnot), but what I want is to see it on bodies that are not models.  (I have a great deal of admiration for models.  They tend to be on the lovelier side of human, but even they must know deep down that they will forever be faced with the challenge of comparing themselves to their most beautiful, as well all do, really, except that the public will help them, like small children will help you paint the bathroom, only snarkier.)  I try to look for bodies that kind of look like mine, so I can see that the sweater I really liked, drapey and luscious in the photos, might actually look semi-luscious on someone whose shape resembles my own.

 

They never do.  Never.  Almost always, the lovely woman (men on Ravelry rarely have my curves) wearing my sweater is wearing a sweater that is not all that flattering to me.  She looks nice, she’s trying to take good and useful photos, but I’m momentarily despondent because the sweater won’t make me look like the model in the knitting magazine.  Not any more than it did for the Ravelry knitter who posted.  It will only make me look like me, in a new sweater.

 

And here’s where the detachment comes in:  I knit it anyway.

 

Wait!  I’m not stupid!  There are reasons to knit the sweater.  It’s a beautiful garment.  It’s a style that will go well with other things I wear, with my lifestyle and activities.  I have the skills, and maybe it will stretch me to learn new ones, sometimes.  I will finish it, and write about it (erm, sometimes), not because the sweater will change me physically but because it will change me inside.  I did this thing, and it was an awesome thing to do.  Even more awesome, if I use some of my newly-practiced skills at fitting and shaping garments to help it fit me well.  If I feel good wearing it.  Even with my eyes closed.  Even with no one there to tell me I look pretty.  I can give the sweater away and I will still have knit something that makes me feel good.  Like my virtual cup of tea, the experience of knitting the sweater is mine and not separate from me.  And my wander over to Ravelry will remind me of that, every time.

 

Here’s a sweater I knit this spring.  It’s the Jackaroo cardigan by Amy Herzog, from Knitty‘s First Fall 2013 issue.  (Sorry for the blurriness!)

 

Wensleyroo

Wensleyroo

 

I love this sweater.  I knit it with yarn a beautiful friend gifted me from a sheep she knows, a mostly-Wensleydale in shiny black-brown wool.  (I made a lot of Wallace and Gromit jokes while knitting it.)   It was spun fine, so I doubled it to get gauge, fully intending it to be heavier than the original garment.  Living in San Diego, I could see it becoming my coldest-weather outerwear, and its slight scratchiness didn’t bother me at all because of that.  Being an Amy Herzog sweater, the shaping was excellent, and I have come to understand how to make the necessary changes so that the torso fits well and the shoulders and arms, even though the shoulders and arms are generally two sizes smaller on a given pattern, for me, than the torso.   I’m very happy with it.  And it has pockets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And… sewing.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Meet Thora. Thora is a dress form, and a friend and I made her a few weeks ago.

I make a lot of things, I think it is fair to say. I like making things. Once upon a time, I thought I was a single-project-at-a-time person. It is to laugh! No, I have discovered a real love of having multiple fibery relationships going at the same time… and even a couple that don’t involve fiber (but don’t tell!). Currently, I have going one quilt (awaiting tying), bags of cut squares waiting to be (at least) two more; a strip of knitted lace in cotton/linen; a pillowcase waiting to be edged in crocheted cotton lace; several balls of merino/silk singles in mid ply on the spindle; another spindle full of alpaca from Peru; a half-finished sleeveless sweater; a granny-square crochet afghan in mid-piecing; a basket full of socks for mending; another pair of socks… um… And of course, that doesn’t include the bags of pre-organized projects awaiting their turn in the queue, like the alien dolls in that claw-machine in Toy Story. “Goodbye, my friends, I’m off to a better place!” squeals the one as the rest “oooh” in reverence.

Yup. It’s a good thing I’m pretty much a process maker, or I’d go slightly mad with the slow pace of turnover around here. And I say that only slightly defensively.

So Thora. My friend Barrie and I decided to make dress forms and I challenged her to use it and not let it sit in the corner… wearing something but otherwise not seeing much action… Hey! I can hear you mumbling at me! She was blocking a sweater! And it needs buttons!

Okay, so the challenge has been thrown down, which means I need to start sewing.

My aunt tried to teach me to sew when I was in high school. She’s a lovely sewer–er, I can now see why sewing bloggers use the word sewist. You can say the word “sewer” and emphasize it as “sow-er” but in print it really does look like I’m trying to gild a very nasty lily. She’s a lovely sewist. She made her daughter’s wedding dress, and my husband’s vest for our wedding, among other things.* Anyway, she tried to teach me to sew, at my request, as a teenager. I managed a pair of shorts and matching top. I remember the other patterns we’d chosen: a full skirt to be made in white-dotted chambray, a white eyelet blouse to go along. But I was so scared. I hated my body, and while I was as fascinated by fashion and clothing then as I am now, the idea of making things to fit that body meant that that body was not likely to change. It also meant that I would have to admit on some level to trying to look nice. Trying meant you were putting yourself out there for criticism, and that meant you might get hurt.

Well, I pretty much still feel that way. But over the last few years I’ve been trying very hard to come to grips with those feelings. And darn it, I love clothes, I have and probably will for a while, even as I crawl into my dotage. (Does anyone ever make you feel like all your clothes should have elastic waistbands and that you should wear longer skirts and sensible shoes once you hit 41?) (Even though I tend toward sensible shoes. But I have since long before they were expected.) There’s no time like the present to try, I guess. And maybe that’s how I’m different from me at 15.

I picked up the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick at the library and I love it. It is very simple and straightforward, and its premise seems to be to teach several basic techniques, then apply to them to a pattern. Before that, though, Sarai walks you through the design process, and the process of designing clothing for yourself. I think I’m going to like working with this book. Even if it does assume you want to wear skirts. Oh, there’s another thing about me–I never wear skirts. I’ve wanted to, but they tend to ride up and down on me like a loose ring on a finger, because while my figure is (genteelly speaking) an hourglass, it’s a rather shallow one and my waist indentation is rather high, as opposed to the “waist” where things like jeans sit. So my middle, where waistbands generally sit, is at a place that does not indent, so much, as mark a point on a narrowing parallelogram. Clear as mud? If you are wearing pants, they’re kind of caught by being sewn around your other bits. But a skirt can just go up, up, up. Suddenly I’m wearing a very mini skirt with a waistband just south of my bra. Otherwise known as a tummy panel.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the first pattern is a skirt?

*There’s a story about sewing. So I asked my aunt to make a vest for Chris for our wedding and I went out and bought some lovely matte brocade fabric. She took a look at it, and gave me a Look. Then she made the vest, and on return handed me back the majority of the fabric. There really was a lot of fabric. “Make a sofa cover out of the rest of it,” she twitted. So I did.

In space, but now back.

Hello, little blog! How I’ve missed you! You may not believe it, but it’s true.  It’s been a very long summer–first gray and tepid, then bright and sunny, and now hot and humid, with more water in the air than anywhere on the ground.  Chris and the Geeklet and I spent most of the month of August traveling.  Two weeks of play-living in Seattle in a little temporary Treehouse (it really was, a small apartment three floors from street level, up among the treetops with unripe apples pushing against our railings and temptingly ripe pears just, oh just out of reach).  Chris worked one of the weeks from home in a co-working space walking distance away, and we made no effort to go out of our way to sightsee, but wandered neighborhoods gasping with pleasure at the mini lending libraries on many streets…

IMG_1319

…and at the gardens taking up most yards and verges.  There were tomatoes and beans and zucchini and blackberries and blueberries and squash, growing like the most exotic of flowers with pride of place, right out there in front, with seeming little fear of vandalization or–gasp!–the occasional plunder.  There was one house with beautiful black fruit growing out near the sidewalk, so shiny, crisp-skinned that you could nearly see your reflection, globular.  We wondered whether this was a kind of tomato?  A round eggplant?  Its mystery was a kind of joy.

I managed to grow a few tomatoes this summer, finally.  They might even taste good.  I’m afraid to try them for fear that they don’t.  And potatoes, too!

IMG_1372

 

These were pretty yummy when Chris applied his magic touch and transformed our motley crew of Yukon Golds into his Special potatoes.  Oh, I do love potatoes.

 

On the whole, our poor garden has suffered from a lack of love.  Maintenance is not love when it is merely the occasional watering, which was done for us (thank you, thank you!) while we were gone.  In our absence, a ground-covering leafy vine which we call Morning Glory vine for lack of a name has covered everything.  It has encircled every pot and tried to eat our watermelon patch.  Poor dear watermelon patch.  It tries so hard.  It’s as though my desire to grow a decent tomato this year has taken all the will to live out of our other plants.  I tried to get down and pull out a batch of these vines and smelled something… odd.  Something a bit like cat pee.  I looked up to find a two-foot-long mutant stem of basil flowering at me.  At me.  It was malevolent, I say.

 

So, after a few weeks in Seattle and almost another week of travel to Huntsville, Alabama to go to Space Camp (YES!  We went to Space Camp!  It was awesome!), we are now home and our garden is glowering at me.  I tried to make it up to it a little this morning, by ripping up some vines and applying some compost tea.  I can still sense some simmering resentment.  The heat requires any garden-love to be early in the morning, so I’m sensing a few early-morning applications of love in the days to come.  Maybe I’ll tell the plants about Space Camp.

Coming back to the world.

I’ve been sick.

It’s been a weird kind of illness–no sneezing, very little coughing, but four or five days of laying in bed, sweating and freezing, and now a week later and I still have far less stamina than I did.  My legs get very cold, very easily.  Every day I can go a little longer, but Chris comes home at the end of the day and asks how I am and all I can say is, “I’m tired.”

But oh, I feel pretty well at the beginning of the day. I’m almost back to my 6:30 wake up, and over the last few weeks as I’ve worked on quilts I’ve been doing so in the front room (the library-playroom) on the worn-out little sofa in front of the big east-facing window. It’s San Diego, so as such we don’t as a rule have Weather;  but still, it’s been nice, looking out that east-facing window, at the sky so grey and cloud-covered that you’d think (if you weren’t used to it) that there must be rain coming. And the birds are so excited that it is spring, so I sit and listen to them chatter as I pull stitches through. Occasionally we get a hummingbird with a brilliant red throat come and sit on one of the willow branches outside the window. Then the sun comes up behind the grey sky cover, and warm fuzzy patches develop like wool has been overlaid on the sky, and suddenly the sun is up and there are runners and people with dogs and cars beginning the trek to Sorrento Valley.  I feel like a spy then, curled up under the half-finished quilt, watching.