Normally, we have a dozen or so crows in the neighborhood, but every autumn, there’s a big crow family reunion up on Lloyd. Hundreds of crows.
This morning, the crows were all in the process of moving from the trees that line the field behind my house to the trees behind the houses closer to the Fontanel. They were all hollering at each other and a few of them were flying back to check on the stragglers.
One group of stragglers came with a whole army of grackles. It looked like two or three hundred grackles escorting ten crows. (We always have grackles in the neighborhood and it always seems like a lot, so I don’t know if this is more than usual or not.) Once the straggler group of crows got situated in the trees with the rest of the crows, the grackles flew back across the road and settled in the trees on the south side.
At first, I thought maybe the grackles were running the crows off? But then three or four crows flew over to the grackle tree, spent a second, and then flew back to the crows, and no one chased them off. They didn’t treat it like some kind of act of aggression.
So, I really do think those crows and the grackles are friends and hang out together frequently. Maybe those straggler crows were the locals that are here all the time so they know the local grackles? “Come, meet the whole family! It’ll be fine. They’ll love you. We love you. Just come.” But then the grackles got to the reunion and were like “Oh, oh, wow. That’s a lot of strangers. We’ll just stay in our own tree. But we support you! Don’t let Aunt Judith’s passive-aggressive comments sting.”
I don’t know.
At the end of our walk, too, Sonnyboy turned back to me with such a silly grin on his face and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was so funny, but I was sorry to have missed it.
I’m going to make an afghan for Busy Mom, once I get the one million afghans on my plate out of the way. But I’m running out of nice days, so I tried to get most of it dyed this weekend. These are dyed from the walnut in Busy Mom’s yard, acorns from my yard, and osage orange.
I’m at the moment trying to get a red for the seams out of Kool-aid and food coloring. I think that’s the thing that will prevent this from looking very boring and beige.
We’re tear-gassing children and still putting them in cages and separating them from their parents, possibly forever. I don’t know what to do to oppose this that would actually matter. When suffering is the goal, when being cruel is the whole point, what does any show of suffering matter? What does outrage matter?
I’m outraged and heartbroken and so fucking angry. But I don’t know what to do with it that would make any difference.
I spent yesterday doing just what I wanted to. I finished up a couple of writing assignments, dyed some yarn, worked on this afghan, picked out a pattern for another afghan, had a fire in the fire place.
I sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, have a hard time figuring out what I want to do. It’s weird to force yourself to practice figuring out what you’d enjoy.
But I do it because I want to be happy and I want to recognize when I’m happy.
The dog ate half a thin mint on Friday. He lived. But it freaked me out.
I have been asked to speak to a community group in February about the bombing project. I’m excited but nervous.
A thing that causes me a lot of anxiety is that I know there are going to be a ton of things in my book that are wrong. I just didn’t have access to the things I needed or the skill to get to them or I’m sure I’m misinterpreting things or just plain old missed things.
And I keep telling myself that I am wrong in the right direction, that at least I’m showing where people need to be looking. But I fret about it all the time.
I’m normally not the kind of person who has two projects going at once, but I wanted to see how my very own yarn worked up and I thought it might be easier to keep spinning if I had an end project that needed the yarn. So, I started a wrap for myself.
I’m pretty in love with it. It’s amazing how intentional the yarn looks–like, yeah, it’s supposed to have all these thin bits and these thick poofy bits–instead of me just not yet having drafting down. I kind of just want to look at it all day.
But here’s a farther away shot.
I don’t know why the cat has decided that, if there’s crochet photography being done, she needs to be in on it, but she ran in from the other room to be sure she was in this picture.
Sure, it’s still a little overspun, but my consistency is much better. I have a pattern for my wrap picked out and more fiber ordered so I have enough yarn for it.
Here’s a question I have, though. I was watching a video where a spinster went through all the different kinds of spindles she has and why she likes them and what she uses them for and she had a floor spindle and she said, “this is great if you want to sit down while you spin.” And I was like “want?”
Should I be standing?
I’ve just been sitting here like a dumbass.
I’ve also made some good progress on the blue areas of this afghan. It helps so much to have that filler there, just in terms of getting the afghan to behave like and afghan.
I still can’t decide about this afghan. I wouldn’t say that I like it, but I find it very compelling. I wish I knew what I was going to do about a border. Maybe I won’t do anything though. Maybe it’s fine like this?
Joshua Headley was great. His voice is lovely. His steal guitar player, though, man. I just want to say, I saw you. I saw what you were up to and good job.
Margo Price remains absolutely one of my favorite people to see live. There’s just something about her live show that puts me in mind of Barbara Mandrell, or at least how Mandrell made me feel when I was a little girl.
And Jack White was, of course, Jack White. The whole show felt like an encore, had that energy, at least. And the encore was even more of it. I especially appreciated that he encouraged us all to each build a condo, which, I mean, aren’t we all about at that point?
And I could feel the bass drum in my chest and it was marvelous.
Is there a difference between a shawl and a wrap? Now I’m kind of thinking maybe I won’t ply my singles and instead work them up into something I can throw over my shoulders at work.
Tonight I am doing the thing you would hope a person who publishes with Third Man would get to do, even though I’m feeling very anxious about it. I have work in the morning! I hate crowds. I don’t know what to wear.
But you get asked to shit like this, you say yes, or what if you don’t get asked again?
I devote a lot of energy in my grown-up life figuring out how to give myself permission to say yes to things I think are cool and no to things I don’t want to do.
Here’s yarn 2. It’s 100% better than yarn one, so it’s only bad, not awful. I love it. I was definitely able, through pre-drafting, to get closer to a more consistent yarn size. If you look carefully on the left, you can see the size I was going for in the whole thing.
I also think I’m overspinning, but I refuse to be too bummed about that until I see how this plies up. And until I get my fiber consistency better. One challenge at a time.
Also, I am sore as shit. My shoulders are basically like “fuck you, we’re never moving again.”
I’m very torn between plying this and working it up, as is, into a hat. Maybe I’ll wait to make a decision until I get the blue done.
I finished all the stars and I’ve started adding sky. All of which, in the original pattern, were flowers. Still are flowers here, if you squint right.
I’m going to try spinning again today. I dyed the plain roving that I bought, so I was waiting for it to dry. I found a handy tip on the internet that said that, when you’re learning to spin, you should use fiber that you find lovely because it makes your mistakes look interesting, not like you’ve ruined something.
I also found a video–I’ve been watching a ton of videos–in which the spinner, who also uses a drop-spindle, said, that, if you’re having problems drafting or getting how to draft, just draft everything before you spin. Like, before you even pick up the spindle. Just work on drafting your fiber first.
And I was like, oh, duh. I’m not being graded on this. I don’t even want to get very good at it. Like, I’m not setting out to become a spinner. I want to continue to be a crocheter who can dye and spin at a level acceptable to me, if I want to.
So, it’s cool if my skills are and remain fairly basic and rudimentary as long as I can get something that is what I want.
I don’t have to do this “right.” I just have to find something that works for me.
Ha ha ha, I’m genuinely not sure I can handle the pressure of there not being any pressure to be absolutely correct.
I’m starting to see why this was the imperative to come out of my latest nine nights.
I got my spindle and fiber in the mail yesterday so I spent two hours last evening spinning yarn. Whew, I suck at it! And literally every time I would say to myself, “Okay, I think I’m getting it,” I would fuck up again.
That being said, I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to try again. I thought the part that would suck the most is having to stop so often to wind the yarn on the spindle, but really, the part that sucks is that, if you draft wrong, you can’t fix it. Or, at least, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, because I couldn’t see the problem until the twist was actually in.
And should I have set the twist in the single before I plied it? I didn’t. But it did come apart on me a couple of times while I was plying and I wondered if that was why. I mean, aside from the fact that my yarn is literally all the sizes.
Okay, but here’s the thing I can’t stop thinking about. When I started pulling apart the fiber to make it more manageable, I felt something so viscerally that it surprised me. A feeling of “rightness”? I guess?
And then, when I started to spin, I felt both like I had no idea what I was doing and that I had forgotten how to do this, because it had been so long. But something forgotten is not quite the same as something unknown.
I have never spun before. I know that.
But I felt, through the whole thing, the frustration of not quite remembering how to do this.
There’s been a lot of research into whether and how memories might be inherited–but as far as I know, mostly dealing with trauma and how traumatic events leave chemical changes in the body that can then be inherited and “remembered” by the new body in some way.
And when I think of how many women in how many branches of my family must have known how to spin for how many generations? I mean, really, I don’t think anyone further back than my great-grandmothers wouldn’t have known how to spin
Everyone else, whether good or bad at it, would have known how to do it. And some of them would have done it so regularly as to know it in their bones. The muscle memories would have been shaped since they were little girls. And then passed down and reinforced. For, what, thousands of years?
How could it not be sitting in my muscles, too?
I’ve been trying to suss out the connection–if there is one–between the disir, who are a category of female ancestral spirits worthy of veneration in old Scandinavian and Germanic traditions, the distaff–a large stick you tie your flax to while you’re spinning–and the dizz–which is a little circular thing that kind of looks like a button that you pull fibers through in order to get them off the combs and into a spinnible conglomerate.
Dizz isn’t in the OED. Distaff seems to have a kind of circular etymology. A distaff is a distaff, but maybe ‘dis’ is flax or spinning flax? But also, distaff refers to the female line in a family, so there’s certainly, possibly still, seemingly a link between the “dis” in distaff having to do with a lineage of women and the “dis” in disir having do with your ancestral lineage of women.
Wikipedia seems to think that the “dis” in disir goes back to a proto-Germanic word that basically means “to suck” or “to suckle.” If you look at how a dizz works on the fiber, you’ll see it kind of sucking and tugging on it.
I think they’re all the same thing. But it’s just a guess and a gut feeling. A muscle memory, if you will.
I stepped on a nail last night. I’m fine. My toe is a tiny bit tender, but it was right above my huge ancient callous so it didn’t even bleed. But I called my doctor to check and see when the last time I had a tetanus shot was anyway.
And now I’m wondering if I can use it for book promo. “JESUS CRAWDAD DEATH is so metal you’re going to get lockjaw!”
Ha, okay, I guess it’s not that great. But the book trailer is!
It’s weird to go from an afghan that was exactly what I wanted, and better, every step of the way to this afghan that I feel is kind of fighting me. I don’t have as much yarn as I thought I did. It’s too wide and I’m worried I won’t have enough yarn to make it as long as it needs to be for as wide as it is.
And I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t have enough blue.
But then I look at the ways the colors I dyed play out over each motif and it seems worth fighting with.
But also, you guys, the amount of dog hair this afghan has collected. I don’t even know. It’s so gross and hilarious.
Yesterday we had our holiday party and there was a “how well do you know the other people in your division?” game where some people had sent in little-known facts about themselves and you had to guess who it was.
One person’s secret was that she was a huge Kenny Rogers fan.
So, I went around from cluster to cluster singing “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” until I reached the cluster where a woman threw up her hands and sang “know when to walk away, know when to run.”
I didn’t even bother to look for anyone else. I felt like–and still do feel like–such a genius.
I still remember when they did “The Gambler” on The Muppet Show. I cried at the end.
I remain concerned about how wide this is. I’m also not 100% in love with how I did the gradient (though, since this is the first time I made this, I was bound to not be great at it). But I still love it and I hope the blue parts will make it come together in ways I find satisfying.
I ordered myself a drop spindle and some fiber. I don’t expect not to suck at it, but I really want to learn to spin. Not even well. I don’t need to learn how to spin well. But I want to make some yarn. I want to know what that process is like.
Which, I think, means that my efforts to enclose everyone in afghans are probably slowing down. Or changing shape. I want something different from my fiber work, even if I can’t say for certain what different will look like.
Which, too, is where I am with my fiction.
Maybe with life.
I forgot my prescriptions at work and had to go yesterday to dig them out of my desk. I took the dog. He was such a good boy, but so nervous. He didn’t particularly like the elevator and he seemed worried when I dropped his leash once we were off the elevator (but there literally was no place for him to go but the other end of the hallway). But also excited.
I admire the way he doesn’t let his nervousness stop him from having adventures. He just makes his nervousness a part of the experience.
This is one quarter of the stars for this afghan and yet, I still feel like I am working on getting it set up so that it’s easier to work on. I’m also pleased and relieved that, as I get more starts attached, it’s shrinking up some. I was starting to worry that ten by twelve was going to be just ridiculously enormous, but when everything is attached and pulls against each other, it’s okay.
The biggest challenge is really just keeping the thing somewhat flat on my body as I work so that I don’t attach stars to the wrong things. But in general, I’m pleased with it. Orange next, and then red. Then I’ll probably need a little purple to finish it off. Then I’ll fill the holes. And then a border. I don’t even want to think about how to border this yet.
The challenge is definitely going to be in the border.
The picture has nothing to do with anything, except to remind me that the work remains.
It’s hard to live in a state where the majority of the people take great pleasure in actively hating me. And yet, the super secret thing I know is that people everywhere hate people like me and the people I love.
How can people who would delight in calling up the families of first graders and describing all the ways in which they would harm those first graders on the first day of school raise good people, except by accident?
But also, how can we be a nation with the grave evils of genocide and slavery baked right into our creation and not be deeply fucked up? And can we be unfucked? I don’t know. But I do know that what we/I need to face is that I’m not the clean-up crew, just mopping up a few small unfortunate messes left after some great unfuckening.
We’re still fucked. We are not unfucked. And that is the work.
I’m listening to Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places while I work on this afghan and it’s really good. It has me thinking a lot about how places become haunted and what it means to be haunted as well as the components Americans expect in a ghost story in order to believe that it’s true.
He’s really good at teasing out some of the racial components. I wish he were better about teasing out some of the gender components. But overall, I’m enjoying the shit out of it.
This morning, I just walked the dog up and down the driveway because the storms last night had made the ground too wet to walk across. This was my view:
Back behind those two trees is the concrete ditch the creek that runs through my yard has been forced into. The muck you’re looking at here is what remains after a night in which the creek returns to its old ways.
It feels like a ghost, like my yard is haunted by the old path of the creek. And it’s real and true. My yard is haunted by the old path of the creek. Sometimes, like last night with all the storms, a creek appears in the old spot and moves through the land in the old ways, and then vanishes again.
So much we think is gone for good, irrevocably destroyed, comes back in ways that are unsettling. Why should the dead be any different?
I can’t remember if I said, but all these hand-dyed blankets that weren’t for nieces and nephews are for some of my local artist friends. The one I just finished is for Julie Sola of Fat Crow Press.
This next one is for Lesley Patterson-Marx. I had thought it was going to be a blanket of flowers, but tell me these don’t look like stars?
I think I’m going to do the stars in fire colors–yellows, oranges, reds. I mean, they can be flowers, too, if they want. Whatever the viewer needs. And then fill the gaps between them in sky colors.
And that technique that I learned for the flat braid join is serving me really well for joining these stars/flowers. It really looks like they’re wrapped together instead of stuck to each other. I’m very happy with it so far. But there will be 120 star/flowers, so get back to me after this drags on.
I finished the afghan I’ve been dying yarn for all summer! And it is both as beautiful as I envisioned and better.
I wanted to say more about it, but I’ve just been distracted–right now–staring at the picture. The pattern is Julie Yeager’s “Fantastic.” The middle of each motif is a little of the Queen Anne’s Lace, which I really loved the smell of. That bright deep pink is the pokeberry, which, fingers crossed, won’t fade or, if it does, will fade in interesting ways. And the brown in all the motifs is that walnut, somehow looking darker here, because it’s magic.
I also love that it looks like dresses spinning or wagon wheels turning or big Victrola bells. Somehow, to me, it just looks like a party with music.
I hope Julie likes it. I’m very, very happy with it.
Do I stay home and finish the last round on these beauties?
Or first trek to Murfreesboro to the fiber festival and then come home and put the last round on these guys?
I really, really love how beautiful these are.
I was thinking this morning, while walking the dog, what would a person have to charge if she was going to sell this afghan? I probably have $90 in yarn. The Kool-aid, food coloring, and vinegar, maybe $10. It’s the labor costs that would sink you. It’s just really time intensive.
I guess that’s why I’ve been thinking of these hand-dyed afghans as art first. Like, yes, they are functional art, but you could buy an item with the same function for a lot less.
Plus, there’s just the sense I have of the number I’d have to hear to be willing to do this as a task instead of as something I want to do. I’d make another afghan like this for someone I didn’t know–couldn’t be identical, because I can’t replicate it–for $1,000, I think. Otherwise, I’m going to follow my whims to the next afghan, you know?
But that’s an art price. Which isn’t to say that any afghan like this–locally-sourced hand-dyes on wool–is worth $1,000 or could be sold for $1,000. That’s just want it would take to change my plans for what comes next.
And I’m already slightly changing those plans. I thought I’d do the copper penny afghan next, but I still have so much yarn from this afghan in the way that I think I have to do the flower one–which is going to use up a lot (or hopefully all) of this yarn–next so that I have room for the copper penny one.
Y’all, the variegated yarn looks so good in the puffy round. I just… ugh. I’m so happy with how this is going.
I’ll try to remember to post some pictures, later.
I slept well, for the first time in weeks. Partially it’s just because we’ve moved through a lot of the disasters at work. Partially it’s because I complained and it made a difference. And partially because we went down and toured Lightning and, man, there’s something very satisfying about seeing books made.
I’m trying not to be too optimistic, because it seems impossible that the blues might be wrapping up and I don’t want my hopes crushed, but maybe… maybe.