Sunday, a smorgasbord

Yesterday was day 1 of my reboot, and I’m declaring it a simple success. Were I to take a more complicated view of the day I would call it so-so, but in those cases where a reboot is so desperately needed, I’m willing to go with the simple tale. It was a simple success. I took my watercolor class, with my friend Deb. I shopped for good, healthy food afterwards, and didn’t succumb to buying anything else. I made my dinner even though I got sidetracked by a 1.5-hour-long conversation with Marc and then felt almost frantic with hunger….but I made my healthy, wonderful dinner. I didn’t walk or do yoga, nor did I drink lots of water all day, but I’m happy. Today is a gorgeous, sunny day. I’ll take a walk, drink water all day, see my super-intelligent book club tonight, it’ll be good.

And as Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story:

My version — and should you think it’s tacky (I do!), you should know that it’s pretty close to what she did. That’s not a good yellow branch, hers was definitely better, but this is like hers. SIGH.

The watercolor class was a BUST. I was hoping to learn a few techniques that are helpful in painting flowers, blossoms, blooms. Instead, it was a watercolor version of Painting with a Twist. The instructor placed a print that she had made on an easel, and we all had to paint that. It wasn’t a print I would ever buy (or hang, if I’d received it as a gift). It wasn’t attractive in composition or flower choices, and it didn’t even look like she had much talent. So there we all were, being walked through “now make coral tones, like this, and paint this part of the flower exactly like this.” She wasn’t very articulate, and she wasn’t very confident for someone who teaches this very class as often as she does. It

hers!

cost a lot of money out of my super tight budget so I was deeply disappointed. Still, it was nice to do that with Deb, and to go to a part of town I rarely visit (OH the hipster facial hair! My god! Will that trend never stop?), and to play with color. I’m calling it a simple success because I didn’t back out, I didn’t hate myself for my effort, or feel shame, and I just let myself play. Success!

 

I made a chickpea salad for dinner because I was just craving chickpeas for some strange reason. I also bought ingredients for a great-looking Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad, which requires an avocado, so I decided to add an avocado to my chickpea salad. Success! Such good food, so healthy every last bit. I went on to eat the whole thing (it should’ve made two meals for me), but I’m calling it a simple success. I didn’t buy Peeps (which are still available), or a beer, or grocery store sushi because I was famished and tired. I cooked for myself, which is something I’d stopped doing and missed terribly. I made a healthy meal, for myself, and it actually worked — which my creative efforts have not been doing since November. I rubbed my eyes with jalapeno-juiced hands, BAD BAD BAD, but otherwise success!

My knitting has been failing BADLY, except for the last thing I made which was a scarf using the wonderful Zauberball that my darling friend Becci sent me. I need to take a photo of it, it’s gorgeous and it worked. (It’s the simplest knitting, but lately I couldn’t even pull that off.) So, emboldened by my successful reboot day and the Zauberball scarf, I cast on a new project using a yarn I’ve got in abundance, a very pale shell pink (tosh merino light, porcelain). I was very disappointed by the color when the yarn arrived in the mail, years ago, so I set it aside. SO pale. Almost just a dirty white, in some light. And pink is complicated — at least it has been for me. It’s too associated with little-girly and I have zero interest in that. But I’m considering a rapprochement with pink, so I cast on a pattern called Yoga Shawl (link for Ravelers), basically a large rectangle, stockinette in the middle, chevrons on both ends, and buttons/holes along all the edges so you can wear it lots of different ways. Last night I got several rows completed while I watched an old Richard Pryor stand-up film on Netflix, from 1971. His brilliance and vulnerability were right at the surface, then, and at times he was almost frightening to watch, always compelling, and just so moving. The last part of the show is essentially a one-man performance of a play with several characters. SO, success there too, a friendliness to pink and my knitting, and time with an old love.

Because pink is beautiful

Isn’t it amazing? Really, stop to think about that. Look at that tree, nothing unusual, a cherry tree in blossom — but TREES bloom out in these delicate FLOWERS. Trees cover themselves in blossoms, just for a while. All the pinks, there. It almost makes me cry.

I guess I offer this post to those of us trying to find our way back. Claim success, even if its imperfect [it is, anyway]. Let the rest go. You can try to add the rest on as you go. Reboot, day 2, I see you waiting for me and I welcome you with a smile.

***

THIS BOOK!!!

Real quick, before I go, let me make a book recommendation! Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. From the very first sentence I was in it, even though I was exhausted and bleary-eyed and that can be a hard moment to start a new book.

Wow. It’s not like anything else I’ve read. The word most often used for it is astonishing and I think I have to agree. Here is the description from the book’s Amazon page:

“The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.”

That makes it sound like a history lesson, or like one of those horrible museum dioramas or something, and it’s NOT. It’s so alive (as far as I’ve read, which is only about 5% of the book) and it’s just not a story I’ve read yet. What a gift, when a book does that, when it kind of slaps your face and wakes you up. Unless it’s 3am when it does that, but whatev. 🙂

O-knitting

For a few years, I was a frequent knitter. When I lived in New York City I nearly became “addicted;” it’s all I wanted to do. I knit sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, socks, shawls, blankets, Christmas gifts, all kinds of things. I’d knit socks standing in a subway car, oblivious to the crowds around me and to the swaying car.

ball of yarn under my arm, four needles in my fingers, sock underway!
ball of yarn under my arm, four needles in my fingers, sock underway!

Here’s a little sample of some of my projects; you can click one and then scroll through them if you want to see them (then just hit the escape key to come back).

The last thing I was actively working on was Grace’s Christmas stocking, on the way to and from Myanmar in October 2012. Oh, I had other projects on the needles — they are still there, as if under bell jars — but Gracie’s stocking had all my knitting focus. It was October, and she needed it for Christmas. When she died I put down the needles and haven’t really had it in me to pick up my knitting again. Oh, I made a big leaf-shaped blanket for Oliver, a quick project, but I was distracted and worried and made it without a whole lot of focus.

wrap it around, button it side-to-side (that's a button on the left) and tuck the stem up underneath
wrap it around, button it side-to-side (that’s a button on the left) and tuck the stem up underneath. the color is more vivid in real life; I couldn’t capture the green in any light.

Now that he is there, though, I find myself with itchy fingers. Hey, I have this little guy to knit for, to make things for. Little kid projects are fun because they’re fast. There’s a great site called Ravelry, a kind of social networking site for knitters/crocheters, and you can ‘favorite’ patterns you like. Katie had made a little wish list of projects for Oliver, and I picked this adorable little cardigan to make:

I'll make this in charcoal gray
I’ll make this in charcoal gray

The name of the pattern is “Oscar,” which delights me because their dogs’ names are Oscar and Penny, so making a sweater called Oscar feels like a nice little bit of synchronicity. Since Oliver’s just born and weighs 8.5 pounds, it’s hard to estimate how big he’ll be when the weather turns cold enough to wear a little cardigan. But I so look forward to the pleasure of making something for someone I love. Of course I also have to knit his stocking (and Tom’s, too — Marnie’s husband — eek!), so there is plenty to do. It’s nice to feel like making things again.

So much to do, so much to work on, and as always, not nearly enough time. What a LUXURY problem. A very lucky luxury problem. xo

the good thing

Yeah, so here’s the very good thing about having a lot of interests: you don’t have to sit alone in your house all the time. Here is my schedule for the next few days:  tonight I’m going to hear a fiddle-driven folk rock quintet (the Lost & Nameless Orchestra) that describes itself as a unique mix of Appalachian Mountain music, Celtic fiddle tunes, and singer-songwriter folk. They say they’ll make me want to get up and do a jig — and I just might! Tomorrow morning at 8:30 I’m going to a nearby coffeehouse to join a writing group for a couple of hours. Next Thursday morning I have a Skype writing session with an old friend in NJ, and then book club that evening, and then the next Saturday (the 5th) I’m going to an art opening at 6pm. Sunday the 6th I’m joining a photoshoot on Congress Avenue, meeting at the Capitol — a bunch of photographers getting together for the afternoon to take pictures. I’ll have something to say about all these as I do them, I’m sure.

My interests make it easy to be the new kid in town:

Reading — well, this one’s pretty easy, though it can probably handle some refinement. Austin is a reader’s town, and the independent bookstores have long lists of reading groups. BookPeople has a whole list (and regularly brings in authors), and so does BookWoman — just the stores I know off the top of my head without even investigating. I’m attending two book club meetings at BookWoman in January, and at least one at BookPeople.  Will the attendees be my people? I don’t know, obviously, and it may turn out that the groups feel too different from my dear book club in NYC, so I’ll have to keep looking. I haven’t even started looking through Meetup yet, or through old friends who still live here.

Poetry — I started a Meetup group and in very short order got 27 people who love great poetry. Our first meeting will be at my place on January 8, but I can only handle about 6 at a time, so the group has already splintered off into multiple meetings. 

Knitting — There are knitting group meetings every single day of the week, so I’m going to look at my schedule and see which one(s) fit my routine and join. 

All it takes is a couple of good connections to get the ball rolling, so if these already-organized groups turn out not to be my particular cup of tea, maybe I’ll meet a person or two who’ll connect me to their webs. I’ve joined another Meetup group of photographers, and a group of women my age who seem to do fun things together, so we’ll see how I fit in those groups.

For some strange reason, the men I’ve known in my life had no interests, isn’t that weird? Not a one of them liked to read, they didn’t care about movies, they didn’t do things (what was I thinking, now that I think about it!), they had no hobbies or activities they liked to pursue. I can’t even understand how one lives in the world without being interested in something, anything. I have more interests than time to pursue them, which can be frustrating now and then but I’d rather have my problem than theirs. The best part is that some are solitary, some require solitude, but others are social. Lucky lucky me.

I’ll be taking my camera with me tonight and if other people are dancing a jig to the music, I’ll snap some pictures. It’s going to be kind of chilly (it’s on an outdoor patio) so I may be dancing a jig just to stay warm. 🙂 I hope you have as fun a Saturday planned as I do. It’s the last one of 2012, and I’m happy to be escorting this year out the door.

Here — I’ll leave you with a taste of the Lost & Nameless Orchestra, in case I don’t take a little video later tonight: