Thursday, February 23, 2006

Artists’ Anonymous

Hi, I’m Dawn and I’m an Artist. I’ve been painting and knitting (with the occasional moment of drop spinning) like a madwoman for the past week. My home is an unmitigated mess and I’m long past apologizing for it. In fact, there is now a new sub-species of dust bunny made up of various hairs and pine needles dubbed the Prickly Pine Dust Bunny. It is a particularly spiky bit of dust bunny that gets caught in the sole of the unsuspecting hand-knit sock and impales the tender tootsie within. The dishes are done out utter necessity ~ like when we’ve run out of glasses (always the first to go). The kids have taken up Easy Cooking courses and are carefully assessing the state of their underwear as to whether they’ll go another day or not. I am on the Fringe of Society. I refuse to blend in with the rest of the Crowd by engaging in Soccer Mom/PTA/Hausfrau activities. I admit I have a problem.

But I’ve tried to make housework meaningful and fun. I’ve read the books on organizing Life (as if anyone could actually do that). I’ve done the Handy Household Tips thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s still boring, deadening work. Really, when one cleans all one is actually accomplishing, despite feng shui, despite the Spirituality of Cleanliness (and its neighborly connection with Godliness), is another opportunity for more dust and detritus to return. I say let the dust bunnies move in beyond capacity and hang out a No Vacancy sign.

But (again), this is skewed thinking if one isn’t plagued with being an Artist. It really is nice to have things in order at home and kids fed with clean underwear . . . Which is why I’m starting a 13-Step Artists’ Anonymous Program (the motto could be ‘One step above 12-Step’). I considered calling the program Creators’ Anonymous, but was concerned that God might show up with his big head and rant about Genesis (not the band) and deliver that little joke about creating the platypus on a bottle of wine and a whim. We’d never get through a meeting. The aim is to strike a healthy balance. Paint a little and then wash the dishes. Knit a few rows and then move the laundry to the dryer. Do some drop spinning while waiting at the Playground for dismissal. (Now, when do we fit in time for the blog?) It’ll take some time to adopt these new, necessary habits, but it’s not impossible. Hopefully, I’ll have the support of my fellow Artists.

That being said, I’m headed for the showers . . .

But (yet again), not before reporting that Sock One of Evan’s sock has been completed. It is Biblical in proportions and was finished during the Womens’ Downhill Flippy Ski-Jumping Thingy (I’m sure that’s not the correct term, but I wasn’t paying attention during the toe-shaping). I’m eager to get started on the other sock once the Long Program in Women’s Skating is on tonight. Unless I’m at the Knitters’ Roundtable . . . another night lost in a yarn shop after hours. By then, the laundry should be done. I don’t know about dinner . . . Baby steps, remember, baby steps.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tricksy Me

Never let it be said that an old dog can’t learn new tricks. Without the assistance of a rolled-up newspaper or spitting T’s (anyone remember Barbara Woodhouse?), I learned new tricks for watercolor techniques that were fun and cool. Fun and Cool, you say, Dawn? Yes, fun and cool. What do I gotta do? Well, you can go here and check it out: http://www.watercolorpainting.com/ and click on Tutorials. Finally, the kitchen becomes the perfect studio: the kosher salt isn’t hard to get to, nor is the plastic wrap and paper towels. If the bathroom is the only studio available, the toothbrushes (any child’s will do ~ it’s not like they actually use them) and rubbing alcohol as well as toilet paper are handy. From the dining room, the tall tapers could be used for resist painting. Raid the kids’ rooms for stubs of crayons. With the plethora of maddening choices, it’s hard to choose just one for a painting. Then it’s a good reason to do a whole bunch of paintings. I’m running out of paper though. (I really need a benefactor. Isn’t there like a Benefactors.com or something? Just click and wait for the check in the mail.)

Artists’ Block? What Artists’ Block? My Inner Bohemian Artist has returned from my left pinky toe and she’s ready for action. I’m working on multiple paintings at once. As one technique dries, I’m working on another dried piece and developing it more. I just need to keep the momentum, maintain the discipline, stoke the fires. Leftover chili with cheese won’t do it. Maybe Hagan Daz (or my new name for it: Hips ’n’ A$$), but not leftover chili. For an artist to keep those muscles flexed, one must paint/draw everyday (then knit/spin/weave every night). It’s maddening when a professor is right. It’s probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten from Collegiate Academia. Otherwise, I feel it stunted my artistic growth; which is why I didn’t pick up a brush again until I had Bennie (that’d be 1998). Since then, I’ve been in recovery. Right now this activity feels like a long-overdue shot in the arm.

As mentioned, I’ve been maintaining my knitting practice at night working on Evan’s socks. I’m at the foot of the first one, having turned the heel two days ago. I don’t know if there’s a sock-knitting god to appease, but I’m praying these socks fit well when done. What would a sock-knitting god’s name be? I mean, if we wanted to make one up, what could we name it? Heelturndle? Heelestia? Tippytoesian? We could have the Heelusian Mysteries and supplicants would wear nothing but socks; they’d be practicing sock-clad (borrowing fashion ideas from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, if desired). Okay, enough of that nonsense. Although, it is a thought . . .

And on a final note, I’ve heard that this blog is being randomly checked by the Apostrophe Police. I was alerted to inappropriate apostrophe usage a blog or two back and received a five-yard yarn penalty. I don’t know what that means, but suffice it to say that even I sometimes generate the occasional typo. Look kindly on me.



An image from the files for yucks and gigs ~ just to add some visual flavor since the camera has rendered me visually impaired.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I Do Not Have Evan’s Foot

It could be the title of an unpublished Emily Dickinson poem, but it’s not. It’s a reality. As a result, I’m winging it, flying without a net and other euphemisms associated with derring-do or entering a medical clinic without health insurance. Evan’s foot lives in Kentucky with the rest of his other various body parts, too numerous to mention. All I have to measure by is a pair of socks here in the Empire State. As mentioned, I can’t hope to match the pair his grandmother made, but I at least want them to fit. I’m working with worsted-weight single-spun in ocean and lapis blues (stuff I got from the Sheep & Wool back in October). For the heel turn and the feet, I’ll be using some buttery-colored two-ply Dorsett. Again, I’ll be modifying the Spinderella pattern for the Magic Loop. I considered joining the Knitting Olympics that’s floating about on some of the other blogs, but time isn’t on my side. I can’t knit and choose kitchen cabinets. I can’t knit and agonize over major appliances. I can’t knit and discuss interior and exterior doors. These activities are taking every last brain cell I have. It’s a miracle I got through the Fourth Grade homework last night without sustaining more damage. That’s why I figured it would be best to just knit up a pair of socks. If I want to delve deeper into a truly mindless activity, it would have to be drop spindling ~ or drooling.

The moebius is off the needles finally with mere inches of yarn left to spare. Whew! Called that one rather close! I don’t think I could have afforded another ball of that kid mohair. We do need to eat (the cats are included in that observation). Now all I have to do is block it. I’ve never blocked anything except maybe a drive-way. Since the moebius isn’t flat, I have to block it on an ironing board, draping one section as another section is pinned to be dried with a blow dryer. Sounds as confounding as choosing bathroom fixtures; which is why I’m procrastinating.

Instead of blocking, I’m planning my next three days. They are as follows:

Wednesday: Laundry. Read the latest Interweave Knits and Yoga Journal. Think about doing yoga, but make sure to do Savasana for at least one hour after that. Maybe knit.

Thursday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, CPR Training for Brownie Co-Leader qualifications. Good thing breathing is the only requisite. The test will be how much I remember in a crisis. I doubt knitting or poetry reading would help in such an instance. At most, it would revive one’s wilted Inner Bohemian Artist.

Friday: 10:00 am – Whenever, A spur-of-the-moment play date (I still hate that term) with some friends. We’ll probably nosh and talk all day. I’m bringing my fuzzy socks and a woobie in case we’re doing naps.

Burning Query of the Day: Why is there a gun in the tub?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

35 Reasons Why I’m Not Painting

1) I have laundry to do and lot’s of it.
2) I need to clean the microwave.
3) I need to change the bedding for my geriatric cat.
4) The kids are home.
5) I have to prepare food at indeterminate intervals based on demand and cognizance of hunger. (No one is ever hungry at the same time and they never want the same food.)
6) I don’t have a studio with a door that locks.
7) WAMC is now airing an opera. (Click and Clack were on earlier. Clearly, I missed my window of opportunity.)
8) I have last night’s, this morning’s and afternoon’s dishes to do.
9) The George Foreman grill needs to be scraped of last night’s hamburger detritus.
10) I’m running out of loose full-leaf organic Lapsang Souchong tea.
11) The easel is dusty.
12) I need to plan dinner.
13) I need to entertain my daughter who doesn’t have a play date. (I still abhor that term ~ it used to be a knock at the door and a small voice asking, “Can So-and-so come out to play?” Now it’s play dates with scheduling and the appropriate healthy snacks and politically correct behavior. What happened to jumping banana-seat bikes over 10 garbage cans without a helmet or adult supervision? Now those were the days!)
14) I need to referee video games.
15) I don’t have the correct striped shirt to ref the video games.
16) I’m building a house.
17) I need to paint the cat’s toe nails. (Alright. I just slipped that one in.)
18) I don’t feel like it.
19) I need to watch Harry Potter The Sorcerer’s Stone to capture the nuances I missed the first 20 times I’ve watched it.
20) I need to watch Harry Potter The Chamber of Secrets to figure out, once and for all, Mrs. Weasley’s sweater. (Just call me Ahab.)
21) I need to watch Harry Potter The Prisoner of Azkaban simply because I’ve watched the previous two and this would just round out my day.
22) I’m writing this blog.
23) I’m writing in my Moon Diary.
24) I’m writing and processing my anger about not painting in my journal.
25) I need to get the entire yarn stash out of the closet to assess quality and quantity.
26) I need to figure which yarn to use for Evan’s socks and whether I have enough of that choice.
27) I need to finish the sewing of numerous patches on Bennie’s Brownie vest (I’m using embroidery thread and fancy border stitching ~ that’ll kill time).
28) I need to finish the lining for the Fair Isle bag.
29) I need to find a working digital camera for my blog.
30) I’m a mere 3” from finishing the moebius scarf.
31) I have this 40% wool/35% angora/25% mohair roving to drop spindle.
32) I need to dust the altar.
33) I need to put the yarn stash back into the closet.
34) I need to choose a spindle to twist that 40% wool/35% angora/25% mohair roving.
35) I have to do an internet search for other frustrated artists so that we can discuss why we’re frustrated and figure out what we’re going to do about it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Keeping an Even Keel

I waited. I waited until after Thanksgiving. I waited until after xmas. I kept myself in Deep Denial and Supreme Avoidance. I would find Other Things to do. And then, it hit Critical Mass: I knew then that it was time to clean the kids’ room. I could no longer endure the spinning of my brain at the sight of toysclotheslightsabersBarbieshorses scattered hither and yon (not that there’s much ‘hither and yon’ in any room of this rental). My Inner Bohemian Artist retreated to my liver until the feeling would pass and then I’d just . . . close . . . the . . . door. There, safe for another week. But every night I entered to read Harry Potter and tuck in I’d need a map to navigate to each child’s bed. I soon took to hollering an all-inclusive Nighty-night from the door and then shut it beating a hasty retreat to the safety of my knitting chair. It was time to face facts and deal with the situation. And, really, I was the only woman for the job. So I told my Inner Bohemian Artist go on vacation somewhere for a few days, because it wasn’t going to be pretty around here. This time, I was going to include the children on this Clean-fest, this Trash-o-rama, this Reordering of the Universe. It was time they learned about cleaning up their own rooms . . . Dammit.

We had to start in shifts. The boys were content to play Super Smash Brothers while Bennie and I went through every piece of Barbie paraphernalia we could find. We dressed the mismatched and obscenely denuded Barbies (honestly, some girls are just brutal). We matched up all the outfits. We hung the special evening dresses in the rotating closet (requires two C batteries), matched up all the shoes, gathered all the purses and figured out which Barbies would be best for play dates and which were to remain untouched by unruly, insensitive hands (this narrowed the 30- 40 Barbie choices down to about 6 ~ the others were packed away in a closed box, up high in the closet. My sanity might be packed up there as well at this point). All four of the Barbie horses were also packed in a box to remain untouched until we move, as well as the Pet Center and the Kitchen. This took up most of our cleaning time.

Because my knowledge of Star Wars paraphernalia is limited I had to rely on Tom and Ian’s expertise in the field. They were the second shift of the clean-up. There was much grumbling from Tom the Elder about Ian the Elusive’s stamina regarding clean-up. Ian would go down to the basement to deliver a large Star Wars ship as instructed by Tom only to be gone for an inordinately long time before retrieving the next reconstructed ship. My voice, on several occasions, had to act as the posse to round him up and set him back on task. Otherwise, Tom would have been happy to pummel him into quivering pulp with a reconstructed light saber. We decided the best course of action at this point (now that the Barbies were safely tucked away) would be to get everything out from under the beds into a large pile in the middle of the floor.

It is an anomaly, really, that so much stuff could fit under a bed. If any of my children needed to . . . I don’t know . . . hide a body, they probably could have easily stowed it under the bed. I doubt we would have noticed. We found books-socks-toyguns-shoes-Yugiocards-Pokemoncards-artprojects-moreofIan’sunderwearinprogress-unidentifiablesubstances. Thankfully, no bodies (someone would have a lot of explaining to do). We sat and sorted through everything, giving it a heave-ho or a home. For the longest time (since before Thanksgiving, if you recall) there had been a suspension on vacuuming this particular room due to Star Wars weaponry left on the carpet from re-enacting The Clone Wars or the exciting battle between Anakin and Obiwan on Mustofar (Ian seems to be drawn to these volcanic settings). I warned them that the Vacuuming Moratorium was being lifted and that they’d better do a thorough sweep of the area. I would take no prisoners.

It took 5 hours. I was committed, thorough and unshowered, but the work got done. After vacuuming, even under the beds, the kids’ room looked like a room again ~ a Temple dedicated to Children's Rest and Relaxation. I almost wanted to sleep in it. I had tossed all kinds of paper products without even inspecting them; I didn’t care if it was precious art work or Social Studies notes or Valentine’s cards from 2 years ago ~ it all went. Three bags full (wish it was wool). My children rose to the challenge (except maybe Ian) and stuck with it until we were done. (Well, actually, I wasn’t going to make lunch until the room was cleaned. Why use money for bribery when food can be just as effective?) After all that clearing out, the boys went on sleepovers . . . It’s another way to keep the room cleaner longer. Let them sleep somewhere else.

I’m happy to report that the brain-spinning has ceased and I’m inclined to keep the door open.

Now, my head is clear to discuss fibery things. My Inner Bohemian Artist sent a post card: she’ll return Monday after the dust has settled.

As mentioned a few posts ago, I was giving some Aran knitting a whirl based on a book my grandmother gave me. I’d been working this swatch of the Filey, Mr. G. Overy pattern according to the written instructions for the requisite 20 rows only to find it looked nothing like the black-and-white picture in the book. As I was knitting, I’d had a nagging suspicion something wasn’t right. I checked the chart to see where things had gone awry and the glaringly obvious occurred ~ the written instructions were in no discernable way correct. The chart resembled an old IBM punch-card with little eensy-weensy rectangles (okay, I’ve just dated myself) and would make my eyes cross each time I went to read the next row. After struggling with blurred vision and missed rows, I tossed in the needles and set to re-writing the directions according to the chart. I haven’t started on knitting it just yet. My brain needs a few days’ rest before knitting up the new instructions; but I’m fairly certain it’ll match the photo when I get going on it. Instead, I returned to lace knitting the moebius. It’s about 10” wide ~ I’ve got another 5” inches to go before it’s done. I do wish I could post pictures of everything. There’s no greater loss to a blogger than a digital camera. Bear with me. I'll just have to rely on what's left of my wit until something wonderful occurs.

Thought for the Day: Don’t eat yellow snow. Give it an especially wide berth in summer, as that occurrence is highly unnatural and therefore suspect.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brighid Imbolc

Technically, this the first day of Spring. Here in the northern hemisphere, you begin to smell the change in the air ~ balmy, fragrant, warm (despite the possiblility of late-March, early-April blizzards). Because I've just come in from taping up my car again, I don't have much inspiration left. So, I'm pasting in an article I wrote last millenium for an e-zine that's sadly out of cyber-print. I leave you with . . .

Imbolc = Wool

I meet with some fine ladies this time of year to celebrate Imbolc. We do wonderful corn husk dollies. If last year’s doll is still around, that doll gets burned, since the energy of the new doll needs to take its place to carry your spirit through the year. We enact sacred arcane rituals: the casting of the sacred space, the igniting of the sacred incense to please the gods, the flame put to the sacred candle and hearth, the popping of the sacred mead cork and the consuming of sacred awesome food. When Circle is opened but unbroken, the ladies go home sated and blessed with beings that can live in a special corner or on the altar – beings we have created of ourselves for ourselves.

With Dolly safely perched on my altar, I can turn my thoughts to other seductive sexy things. My hands pine for the touch of it. My fingers itch with a desire that surpasses that of lovers in a field of poppies. My feet twitch and twitter ready to dance to the rhythm that only a woman of my kind can know. Epileptic seizure? Overdose of Ecstasy? Au contraire, my fine not-so-fuzzy friends. Mine is a lunacy that can only be understood by a fellow spinner. (No, not the stationary bike “spinner” at steamy chlorine-scented health clubs.) It is wool. Wool! Sheep wool, alpaca wool, llama wool, bunny wool, camel wool, silk worm wool, hell, even Great Pyranees wool just waiting to be spun. But it’s Imbolc. Let’s stick with sheep.

At this time of year, during these frigid winter blasts, ewes begin to lamb. I had been to a shepherd’s open house one year. (For the record, shepherds have houses. Sometimes they are open to the public. Living in the fields proved futile and uncomfortable.) A group of lunatic fringe spinners organized this trip chomping at the bit to get some Cotswold for spinning. The woman hosting the open house was up to her elbow in sheep dip. (Also for the record, shepherds don’t stand on ceremony. Overalls and Wellies are as dressed up as they get for entertaining open houses regardless of gender.) She graciously showed us around the farm. We met her blue ribbon-winning Costwolds and her favorite black ram, Rambo (don’t ask). This was all done on a blustery day. I’m not talking “Winnie-the-Pooh” blustery either, I mean “lose the first three layers of skin to frostbite” blustery. The other crazy spinners and I trudged from outbuilding to outbuilding waiting for the gold, the Cotswold. Blue Ribbon quality, if possible, depending on the ability to out run, out climb and beat down others before they got their grubby spindle-itchy hands on it.

Despite the anticipation of getting to the prize, on our tour we were blessed with the sight of one ewe birthing her third lamb. Lambing is a busy time for shepherds. It is my understanding that they are vigilant night and day, making sure that ewes lamb safely and that the lambs are healthy. Ewes are often moved to a safer outbuilding with heat lamps. It was in this one outbuilding that we saw the ewe bring yet another lamb into the world. The crazy spinners and I watched the lamb lurch forward and teeter on wobbly legs. There! He was standing and in good form, with the hopes of becoming a blue-ribbon fleece producer like his daddy, Rambo. We began to salivate (this shepherd also happens to sell lamb meat, but that’s not what we were getting all hot and bothered about). One tiny, jittery voice in the crowd timidly asked if we could please go to her wool store room. By her leave, we hurried to the next outbuilding . . .

Ah! The shepherd’s wool store room! It was all there; blue-ribbon, first year, fine quality second year, still fine quality third and fourth year Cotswold wool. Ranging in delicious tawny caramel white to deep chocolate to jet black crimped and crinkled fiber begging to be stroked and, most of all, twisted. Now, you can’t just enter a room full of wool, diving ungracefully for the first bag of blue-ribbon fiber you can get your hands on. There are rules. First, you must sample the coffee and Freihoffer donuts kindly set out on the side table. You must let the shepherd explain what quality wool is what and where it is located and what the prices are. At this point, you should make careful note of where the wool you want is and focus on it. When the shepherd holds the gun above her head and fires you dash and dive before the other fanatic spinners get to it. If you’ve been fast enough, cunning and brutal enough, you will emerge the victor and pay a walloping amount of cash in return. But you got the good looking wool. Your time is now planned for the next two months waiting for the snow to melt and the green shoots to poke up through the fecund soil.

So, this is what Imbolc means to me. How about you? I’ll bet the thought of twisting a few fibers is just making you hot.