Leyline Socks

Hello everyone! I’ve uploaded a new sock pattern to Ravelry (they really make it so easy).

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First coined by archaeologist Alfred Watkins in 1921, the term “leyline” refers to alignments of landforms and ancient manmade structures in the landscape. They likely came about as a line-of-sight navigation system in the prehistoric world, but some think they might have had spiritual significance, too.

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Leyline Socks are knit toe-up with a Turkish cast-on and short row heels. The easily memorizable chart ensures that you won’t need a line of sight to the instructions after you get going, leaving plenty of brainpower to ponder your own spiritual significance.

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Parritch Socks

Parritch Socks designed by me

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I’m completely sold on knitting socks with solid-colored yarns, these days. I had fifteen years’ worth of fun with stripes and hand-dyes, and now I’m enjoying the serenity and control of working with single colors.

Which isn’t to say I don’t like to mix them up. Contrast-color toes, heels, and cuffs are so cute, especially when done in white or cream.

For these socks I used Hawthorne Bare from Knitpicks for the contrast tips and Regia 4-ply #2143 for the main body of the sock. This gray is a special gray–a little creamy, a little warm, just the color of oatmeal. The first row you knit after doing the cream-white toes is almost indistinguishable. Only when you get an inch or two into it does the contrast become apparent.

I have published this pattern on Ravelry, which is a first for me. It’s available here. If you try it and have any problems please let me know…and also send me photos of your finished projects.

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Winter projects

January is usually one of my favorite months. I love Christmas, but it’s a relief to have it over and the decorations packed away–to eat simple food again and look forward to the year ahead with all that holiday pressure off.

I knitted these nubbly-chevron socks out of KnitPicks Hawthorne Bare, which I may or may not have blogged about. I bought a bale of twenty skeins of it in late 2016. It’s a nice yarn to knit with, texturally similar to Koigu KPM.

And these broken seed stitch socks were knitted from Knitpicks Hawthorne Speckle in a colorway I don’t remember–one with primary colors–and Cascade Heritage Sock in red. That’s another lovely sock yarn.

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Here’s the new sock. Hawthorne Bare toe, then on to Regia 4-ply in embossed stitch for the foot. Historically I haven’t liked to knit with Regia sock yarns; they have a crackly, kinky feel that put me off. I recently discovered that they come in a rainbow of neutral heathers, though, and this one (romantically named 2143) is my favorite. Warm, creamy gray.

I’ve also been turning leftover Christmas clementines into pomanders. Don’t ask me why; I’m not entirely sure myself. As my collection of them has grown, so has their orangey, spicey scent, and I’ve begun to hope the whole thing hasn’t been a total waste. I got the curing mixture recipe from The Scented Room by Barbara Milo Ohrbach. It’s also inspired me to grow some sweet herbs for potpourri making, this summer.

Doesn’t that throw you right back? Potpourri? Dried-flower wreaths? Making sachets with your mom in 1984, out of leftover dark-green calico from your mother-daughter Christmas dresses?

No? Just me, I guess.

Since the pomanders gave me a taste for long-haul kitchen projects, I started the Deep-Sea Purple Kraut from Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson. This book held me in thrall all through the holidays, when I was too busy cooking family recipes to make anything from it, but no more. I procured some dulse, and the kraut is now quietly fermenting (and running over…) in a corner of the pantry.

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Garden time is sneaking up on us. Here in the Puget Sound area there’s no hard freeze, so perennial beds need weeding all winter. I’m working on cutting back perennials and shoveling out the previous owners’ muck-mound into the rest of my veg patch. I’ve also sowed some columbine seeds–Barlow mix–to eventually plant out in the Secret Garden. If they grow. I’m doing it now because they need stratification. They’re resting in cell packs beside the barn, soaking up the chilly rain.

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One more winter project, though it’s more of a yearning. I have this collection of tiny glass bottles. All shapes, some amber and some clear. What the hell do I do with them? A teeny apothecary seems called for; one for my Sylvanian Families mice to maintain. There are a lot of sensible things to occupy me, though, so for now I only get the bottles out to admire them.

Hope you’re having a quiet winter, too, and yearning for spring.

The snow and the dark

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My spirituality is a slowly evolving thing. I grew up in a culturally-Christian but not-a-church-member No Man’s Land, and after spending a little energy as a teenager investigating whether I really wanted religion (I didn’t), gave up spirituality altogether. Life in one’s twenties is hard enough without these questions.

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In the early days with my husband, maybe on our first date but certainly within the first month, he told me about a Green Man in the woods near his house. He showed me it, and it was a good one: visible from exactly one spot, at exactly one angle, created by the juxtaposition of about three trees. It was undeniably a face. There were a lot of oaks in that wood; he called us Druids.

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Now that we’re farther north (above the 47th parallel), the Solstices seem important. Summer days become so impossibly long, winter days so impossibly short. Loving the Wheel of the Year seems, to me, as natural and universal as it comes. I’ve put one on the wall in our kitchen–a nice one with eight hooks so you can turn it around as the seasons pass, with the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days at the top as they come and go. We go to the Julefest in a nearby Scandinavian-heritage town, where men in Viking helmets and fake furs row a longboat to shore, recite the litany of time, and light a bonfire to celebrate the returning light. This year, too, we went on a Solstice walk in a nearby woodland: two hundred people carrying lanterns, walking single-file through the forest at night. It was. . .very dark. I’m glad I did it. I don’t know if I’ll do it again.

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And Christmas. I love it with all the standard American trimmings: a lighted tree, decorated with glittery ornaments and little forest animals. Cards to people far away. Extra-special baked goods. Special music. The Christian aspect is lost on me, but I do see that after the Winter Solstice we hold our breaths for three or four days, to observe that the light really is coming back, that that at least we can depend upon–and then we celebrate.

So that’s what it is to me. Happy post-Solstice, everyone. Here comes the sun.

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Fall

Fall is here, for real. After a terribly dry summer the rains have come. It’s a little disorienting but also comforting. We can stop trying so hard now, out in the gardens. The compost is turned. The harvest is in. Time to rest.

I canned 27 pints of applesauce made from our own apples, this year. The best kind has lots of fresh ginger in it, so as soon as I figured that out, I did the rest that way. I made 24 half-pint jars of blackberry jam from our blackberries, too, and heaven knows who’s going to eat it. The tomato harvest was late but bountiful and we ate as much caprese salad and BLTs as we could hold, never mind eating them out of hand, while still standing in the garden. Basil was good, too. I’ve made pesto three or four times.

And now that it’s rainy and chilly, everything outside is succumbing to the inevitable creeping mold, and we turn our attention to the real “fall foliage” around here: mushrooms.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll keep saying it: I love all these beautiful things that grow in the damp. Fungus, lichen, slime mold, primitive plants. The desert is interesting to visit, but give me trees and moisture. My skin needs to suck it up.

And since it’s coming on mushroom season, my husband is starting some of his own: shiitake and oyster mushrooms. We have plenty of old logs sitting around the place. He drilled this one full of holes and inserted the mycelium plugs. Fingers crossed that they grow.

Return?

I lost my words this summer.

I don’t know why, just that I lost the desire to write things down. Stories. Blog entries. Lists. Daydreams. My imagination stopped working.

Maybe I haven’t been feeding it enough books and music, or maybe I’ve been feeding it the wrong ones. Maybe having my daughter home for the summer, with all her still-only-six-years-old demands and no reliable respite from them, sent my creative mind into hibernation. Maybe I worked so hard in the garden that there was no energy left, or maybe–maybe–my life has finally become full enough that I don’t need to live other ones on the side.

Or maybe the long wait for approval is grinding me down. I’ve had all my books out of sales for a long time, which means no one is reading them or reviewing them or saying anything to me about them. And I thrive on outside attention, yes I do.

Anyway. I was here this summer. I summered hard. We walked in parks, we swam in the pool, I put in a flower border and a shade garden and a vegetable patch, we picked blackberries and I made jam and canned plums and got a lot of sunshine and sweated my ass off.

And now school’s back in session and it’s time to slow down. I’m back to writing. Back to trying to love some other characters. And I’m afraid, so very afraid, I won’t.

But I’m trying.

Meadow

We’re back from a week in the desert, where my parents have moved. I was looking forward to some heat and sunshine after the cold Pacific Northwest spring we’ve had. I got it, but my body is getting older and adjusting isn’t quite as quick as jumping into a cold swimming pool, anymore. My husband went fishing in the hills of Santa Fe County and came down with a severe fever and weakness the next day. I was worried he might have plague (three confirmed cases there in the month of June, if you think I’m joking) but no buboes formed and the fever went away, and though he’s been dragging himself around as if half-dead, I think it was only Airport Germs.

Coming home was instructive, as always. The gardens flourished without me. Things in the veg patch are three times as big. Only the newly-planted things in the raised beds, which dried out rather badly, didn’t thrive, so I’ve been tearing them out and replacing them with nearly-forgotten corms. I have sixteen dahlias I hope will come up, and a row of five cannas that are growing so well that I’m ashamed of myself for having neglected them.

And it felt cold, here. Pleasantly wet though. A week of Russian sage and cholla and artemesia makes a stark contrast with the hardhack, daisies, and blackberries of home. Foxglove season is coming to an end. The swathes of them along the highway have bloomed up to their tippy-tops, and the fireweed is opening, looking like their skeletal ghosts.

While my husband was sick in the desert I took Benadryl and slept on the sofa. It’s surprisingly okay, if you hug a pillow and put another between your knees, but drugged sleep isn’t real sleep and now that we’re home, I’m diving into bed each night and sleeping hard. I am working hard at sleeping well. Age comes into play again, though, and I’m not recovering very fast. My brain is fuzzy, my temper short, and the very thought of trying to write–especially since our daughter is on Summer Break and needs perpetual companionship–is unthinkable.

And so I wander. My favorite book is Howard’s End. I wish I could be a Mrs. Wilcox. Or maybe I am. It feels conceited to say I am, but I’m not a Bast and the Schlegels of the world frighten me. Left to my own devices I’m interested in all sorts of things, and come up with all sorts of clever things to say, and start to feel good about myself. So I say one of my clever things to a Schlegel and she comes right back with something cleverer for which I have no reference point, and I’m lost. Quietened. There is nothing impressive about me; my stories, my degrees, my work history aren’t stellar compared to any Schlegel’s. All I have to fall back on is myself, and the place I go when I’m alone. I wander and I rest and, after a long time, I find something new to feel happy about.

Like the wildflowers. God, I love wildflowers. Everywhere I’ve lived. They’re particularly impressive here, though, and we have over three acres of them, so I cut bouquets. I have to put my vases on mats of aluminum foil to keep the cat away, but I lay down the foil and bring the bouquets in anyway. My house is a mess. The bouquet is lost in the coats and shoes and unsorted mail of the front hall. I try to remember what it was like when it was just me–in my small single-person space–in complete control of where objects ended up. I think I was tidier. I would have straightened up the whole hall and taken pictures of it, then. Now, I don’t have the time or energy to seek approval. I am me. I ramble in the meadow. I have fuzzy thoughts. I live in the midst of my slightly messy but plague-free family. And one day, after I’ve been home enough, I’ll start to feel clever again and I’ll write.

Weather in the American Midwest

Seasons in the Midwest are a binary. You go from winter with subzero overnights and sub-freezing days, into summer, with highs over 90 and humidity over 80, sometimes in as little as a week. Even in years when the temperature moderates for a month or two between seasons, strong winds make the cold part feel colder and the humidity makes the warm part feel hotter. If you haven’t grown up with humidity, you can’t understand. If you have, you’re nodding.

This always led to–with me, and I think with many Midwesterners–a sort of double Seasonal Affective Disorder. January and February are so nasty that you regularly take your life and your insurance premiums in your hands when you try to drive somewhere. Sometimes–at least once per winter, unless the year is extraordinary–you’re literally stuck in your house. When, like I was for a few years, you’re a SAHP to a small child, it’s inexcusable to take the risk of going out, sometimes for a week at a time. You watch the icicles, watch the roads, watch the reports, and judge your desperation. You read Little House in the Big Woods and wonder how Ma did it. Playing in the snow only gets you so far. Eventually you decide you’d better get orange juice and TP before the next big storm hits, and you go out, and it scares the dickens out of you, and you go home penitent and ready to hunker till spring.

Then summer comes, usually in May. It’s instantly blazing hot–say over 90F with humidity over 80%–and for about a week you bask. You get a bit of a tan. You break out your flip flops and shorts. Life is good.

And then it goes on, and on, and on until October. Nobody sleeps well. The air conditioning runs literally nonstop, all day and well into the night (just like the furnace ran in the winter–don’t you dare imagine open windows are an option, in the Midwest). Your underwear is perpetually soggy. If you try to work in the garden, you come in feeling ill. Your garden wilts. You can’t afford to keep it properly watered. And the rain doesn’t come, and doesn’t come, and doesn’t come.

Then there are the storms. In the Midwest they come in great rolling billows, with tarnished skies, dramatic flashes of lightning, and rolls of thunder that shake the house. Rain falls horizontally and you keep the weather station tuned, waiting for the moment when you have to grab your kid, your phone, and a quilt, and hunker in an interior bathroom until it’s over. Then you come out for the damage reports: the tornado went south of town, demolished two trailers, there are trees across the road so you can’t take that path out; also there’s flooding along the river so the east and north routes are impassable. Guess you’re stuck in town for a few days. Ain’t everybody grateful for FEMA?

Tornado sightings are badges of honor. Hail is a gossipy delight. Big enough to dent your car, eh? Awesome. Need a new roof? Get your claim in before the insurance company stops paying out–cuz they always do. They can’t replace every roof in town.

The snow is beautiful, of course. After the first big fall you go outside and flounder around, taking pictures of bird and deer prints and of the red hawthorn berries covered in big fluffy puffs of it. Each new fall thereafter makes you feel a little better again, but in between there are the long icy stretches when the snow turns gray and the roads are black ice, when a gust of wind in your face makes it feel like your eyeballs will pop, and when gassing your car is an almighty misery. You stand by the pump, not sure you can bear the pain in your fingers any longer, and when it’s finally over you get in your car and unzip your coat and stick them under your armpits until things are okay again.

And the summer evenings. There are cicadas, in the Midwestern summer, always. They screech aa-WEEEE aa-WEEEEE aa-WEEEEE all night and day. Toads sing. In June and early July there are lightning bugs. Kids chase them and catch them in jars to make “lanterns” and smash their abdomens with a stick, then carry it around like a torch until the light fades. If you’re lucky enough to live near an unmown patch of ground you can sit in a lawn chair and enjoy the show, twinkling bright and thick for an hour after sunset.

Cold-weather garden crops are a problem. It’s hard to get in radishes and peas and lettuce before the weather gets too hot and they turn tough. Forget brassicas. You grow tomatoes, though. Peppers. Eggplant. Zucchini. Cucumber. Melons. Okra. Corn. Pole beans.

Wildflowers are variable. Trilliums come in red and white. Violets in blue, white, and yellow. Spring beauty. Butter & eggs. Crown vetch. Chickory. Dame’s rocket. Ditch lilies. Daisies. White clover and sweet clover. If you walk in a woodland at just the right time, you can turn up the leaves of the mayapples to see their white mayflowers. Sometimes you see a jack-in-the-pulpit or a pink lady’s slipper. There will be one magic day in springtime when the honeysuckle blooms, and the whole woods smells of it, and its petals drift down like snow. And there will be one magic day in autumn when you need a sweater but not a coat, and you go to the farmer’s market for a hayride and you buy some overpriced pumpkins and doughnuts and apple cider, and the neighbor burns leaves, making the whole neighborhood smell nice. In summer there are garden-ripened slicing tomatoes, and pick-your-own strawberries. Milk & Honey corn from a farmstand. One summer evening after the sun has sunk and you’re sitting on the porch, the neighbor’s cat will come to visit and will let you pet her belly. The dusk envelops your garden, and a hummingbird moth works over the coneflowers, and you just about feel that things are all right.

And that’s what weather is like in the Midwest.

June 12, 2017

I have a personality trait where I believe that I can set something up for the rest of my life. I have figured out eating plans for the rest of my life, exercise plans for the rest of my life, wardrobe plans, reading plans, knitting and gardening and writing plans. I approach each new hobby holistically, by which I mean I research what materials one would need if one were going to keep at it for the rest of one’s life, and settle on those as the minimum basic set. Thus I have a fairly good setup for binding books by hand, for example, and for marbling paper, for small-scale loom weaving, for scrapbooking, for writing letters by hand–all things I’ve lost interest in. I am constantly trying to find the correct combination of luggage that will solve my How To Pack For Travel problem forever. And when I was young–oh so young and foolish–I thought I could settle on a kind of shoes for the rest of my life. Jewelry for the rest of my life (pearl stud earrings, btw). I felt that having these questions answered would leave me free to move on to bigger and better things.


The Nootka rose–native to this area. It covers whole empty lots.

It’s all foolishness, of course. Our society is too materially rich and I am too flighty a person to settle on practically anything for the rest of my life.


Salmonberry flowers around February. Ripe berries are orangey yellow.

Of course, some things are different. My kid is my kid for life, for example, and I sincerely hope that my husband is also my husband for life. Back in my high-earning days I bought some nice furniture that is probably my furniture for life, and that’s fine. I have romantic ideas about being allowed to make my current home into my home for life. The longest I’ve lived at any one address was seven years. I’d like to find out what it’s like to live in one place for multiple decades. Given my history of moving around, though. . .well, we’ll see. My husband lived at our former house for fifteen years, and in that area for thirty. That was a long time. Maybe he’ll anchor me.


A silent story: a tuft of bunny fur and an eagle’s feather

Life being what it is, though, not only circumstances but I as a person change. Now that I’m out of my tumultuous twenties and more than halfway through my thirties, I can, funnily enough, observe certain things be pared away from my life. I am less likely to pick up a new hobby and its paraphernalia. I am less likely to spend time forming a coherent scheme for my wardrobe. Paradoxically, I am also more likely to stick with a garment for multiple years once I buy it. That’s wisdom. As for the hobbies–well. Let me say that as one ages, one comes to term with limitations. When you’re young, you feel that anything you don’t get done, doesn’t get done because you’re lazy. Later on you realize that there are simply only so many hours in the day, and that you only have so much Voom. You can focus on maybe one major and one minor interest at a time while keeping up with practical obligations, and the rest has to slide. So you approach hobbies with more suspicion.


I can only wish that this was my garden for life

Does that mean I’m actually finding my Patterns For Life? I don’t know.


What IS this stuff? The leaves are fantastic.

To connect this to writing: I find that some of the most appealing books are ones that seem to present a Unified Scheme For The Rest Of The Character’s Life. Happily Ever Afters in romances, for example. Mary’s gardening in The Secret Garden. Insanity in The Yellow Wallpaper. We want to watch a character approach an unchanging state in life; something that can always be depended upon. Of course real life just isn’t like that–but oh. It’s so soothing.


The root ball of a fallen tree. There are lots of these–and much bigger–in the PNW