Monday, October 20, 2008

Yarn, Trolls, and a Bit of a Tingle...

On Saturday morning, I threw on jeans and a sweater, stuffed my hair into a ponytail, and ran out the door to the post office. I intended to come straight home, but something happened to me as I exited the post office parking lot. As if I had suddenly fallen under alien mind control, the car turned left instead of right. The next thing I knew I was two towns away at a yarn store, holding a huge bag of purple yarn and wondering what had happened.

I had been fighting the urge to buy yarn for weeks. It was constantly on my mind; every free moment I thought about buying it. My lunch hours were torture, as I weighed the necessity of eating versus the twenty minute walk to the yarn store near my office. I have a very small yarn stash but a stash nonetheless; I told myself I had to finish one project before I bought any more yarn. And I fought the urge hard: I had even managed to take two trips to NYC with its plethora of amazing yarn stores and not buy a single yarn-related item.

I am not one known for stifling my cravings; rather, I choose to appease them. Most people (particularly my dentist) would argue that my daily package of M&Ms is unhealthy and unnecessary, but without that daily fix I will systematically eat my way through an entire one-pound bag at one sitting, making myself sick. And then turn to whatever all else I may have handy.

Apparently, I’m the same way with yarn. After suppressing the desire to buy new yarn, it apparently had all built up inside me and was ready to be let loose. Slightly dazed from finding myself there to begin with, I walked into the store thinking I’d just buy one skein of sock yarn to take the edge off. The yarn equivalent of a package of M&M’s, if you will. Then I spied this marvelous sample sweater hanging against the wall in a beautiful wool/alpaca blend. I kept coming back to it, fingering the cuff. I finally consented to look for the pattern, just to dissuade myself; I was sure that it was much too complicated for my ability. While I have been knitting for years, I have never attempted an adult sweater, let alone something intricately patterned.

After some rummaging through a couple of pattern racks, I found it. It was just as beautiful in the picture.

Enter stage left, the sales lady. “Isn’t that a fabulous pattern?” she said. “And that yarn is so great, you’ll be surprised to see how fast it knits up”. I expressed to her my concerns about my knitting abilities, and she reassured me it wasn’t too difficult. I read the pattern and I saw that indeed, it was simply knits, purls, yarn-overs, and knit 2 together, skills I had mastered long ago. The sales lady cautioned me that it would be an expensive undertaking; the yarn would cost $80. This gave me only the tiniest of pauses as I quickly balanced my checkbook in my head. I didn’t need this yarn, and for $80 I could buy two or three sweaters. Or, y’know, a weeks worth of groceries. But it was utterly no use; the minute I saw that sample I was a goner.

I heaped 9 skeins of the yarn into my arms and carried it to the counter. I had never bought this much yarn at one time. It’s a lovely dusky purple, which the manufacturer calls “Troll”. I ponder this, wondering if trolls are purple in Peru, where the yarn originated. I thought to myself, I better really like this yarn. For good measure, I bought another skein of sock yarn too.

The minute I got home I wound a ball of the purple yarn and cast on, in utter disregard to the afghan and two (different) socks I already had started. The yarn is amazingly soft and supple. I knit well into the night, only to wake in the morning and realize something was wrong. I had followed the directions to the letter and I was not getting anything close to the pattern. I mused. I cursed. I counted. I cursed some more. Finally I hit the Internet and within thirty seconds got confirmation: the pattern was wrong.

Oddly, this made me feel giddy with brainpower; I knew something was wrong and the solution was exactly what I had suspected! I'm a REAL knitter after all!!! I ripped it out and began again with a vengeance. Twelve hours later, I had this (albeit not even a close approximation to the actual color...):

Plus some strange tingling in my hands and forearms, but I’m sure that will subside…

Monday, October 13, 2008

Artistic Dilemmas

There's this little thing called "second sock syndrome", which is when you triumphantly finish knitting a sock and then immediately realize, oh $#!*, I have to knit a whole other one just like this. And if you don't start the second sock pronto, you probably never will.

I had this feeling today after completing the most complicated sock pattern I've attempted thus far, in yarn that I am afraid that I will run out of midway through the second sock. I love the yarn, and I love the pattern, but I don't really love the two combined; the yarn wound up striping in a manner that I did not anticipate, and I think it detracts from the design pattern:

By all rights, I should have ripped it out but I just didn't have the heart. All those hours...which just proves I am a process knitter (I knit because I like to knit) and not a product knitter (I knit because I want some concrete result). And I'll wear them, assuming I ever finish the second's just that striping is bugging me...

On another note, I bought the new Sarah McLachlan compilation album yesterday. Driving home I listened to the two new tracks on it, and started thinking, "oh my gosh, is she getting divorced????". And, sadly, with a bit of Googling it appears that she did indeed separate from her husband. Celebrity gossip aside, what I find fascinating about this is how brutally honest the lyrics are, and I think wow, that's really brave to just put it all right out there. I think that real honesty is what makes great art. At the same time, I wonder how the soon-to-be ex-husband feels about these songs, and wonder if it's worth it in the end. I mean, they aren't "screw you, you bastard" songs, but they are revealing.

And I also think about the fact that her husband was also her drummer, and she's written all these songs about him, and then she's got to go on tour and sing them? It would be like having to read a page of your journal out loud to an audience...night after night. Maybe you'd get numb to it after awhile? I've written a number of fairly raw emotional essays, and the writing was extremely cathartic. Once written, though, I'm done, it's over - I have no interest in revisiting it (or revising it, for that matter). I don't know how anyone could get on stage and sing "you're the one true thing I know I can believe in" after it has become painfully clear that actually, you can't (or don't) believe in that person anymore. Or does it just become another song among many? I'd really like to know.

And now, I'm going to go eat some toast.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Sunday

1) Yesterday I took my parents to NYC. Neither had ever been, and we drove down to New Haven and took Metro North in. This is now my preferred (and least expensive) method of traveling to the Big Apple. We visited Ground Zero and rode the Staten Island Ferry, then roamed around Times Square and Rockefeller Center. We also visited the American Girl store. And then came home. Both were glad to have finally seen (a miniscule fraction of) the city, but neither is in any hurry to go back.
2) I am here to tell you that contrary to the rumors you've heard, our economy cannot possibly be in trouble. The American Girl store yesterday was a zoo; people were buying stuff left and right. It was crazy, I tell you. Crazy.
3) I'm over the Staten Island Ferry. Even if it is free.
4) I'm pleased at how well my dad held up;  I think the subway made him nervous, though to be fair we did seem to have a particularly crazed driver on the 1 train, who apparently subscribed to my grandmother's theory of driving: there are two speeds, fast and stop. Except, y'know, there are no seat belts on the subway.
5) Before my parents left, my mother cleaned out the sink and did the dishes as well as a load of laundry, and my dad swept the entire downstairs (it's a big house) AND gave me (yet another) lesson in how to put air in my tires (just for the record, and in my own defense, it helps when you have a tire gauge that actually works).
6) I was more than amused when my grandmother called my mother, demanding to know where the hell she's exactly what my mother did to me last week.
7) I've spent the past couple of months watching "Monarch of the Glen", a BBC show about Scottish land owners (it sounds awful, but it's actually a great drama/comedy), and now I'm almost at the end. I need another good BBC show to get me through the winter...last year it was Ballykissangel. I've started in on "Hex", but I'm not really that into it. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Lack Of Faith Is Disturbing

I've been reading (and re-reading) the new book "Acedia" by Kathleen Norris, and I've pretty much decided that it's exactly what ails me. I haven't been particularly religious in a very long time, not since my Sunday School teacher confirmed the worst about Santa. Because it's not a very long leap for an 8-year old to wonder, well, if they're lying about Santa and the Easter Bunny, is all this God and Jesus stuff just a bunch of bunk too?

For quite some time, it has felt like God just stopped listening. Tim, one of my coworkers back in Memphis, often used to say that sometimes, God says no. I'm at the point where I don't even think he's saying no anymore. No matter what decisions I make based on what I believe to be "right" based on my Christian upbringing, whether it be moving into my sister's house out of a sense of family duty, or loving someone (however imperfectly I may communicate it) because of who he is, not because I need him to rescue me; well, it all just blows up in my face.

I wonder what the difference is between hope, faith, and wishing. I feel like there's a difference, however subtle, between the three, and it's too easy for me to confuse them. Sometimes "wishing" feels like faith, until the wish doesn't come true. Is that a test of faith? or is that simply not getting what you want? And what's the difference between not getting what you hope for and God saying no? Either way, I'm schlumping around the house in my pj's wondering how I managed to yet again get everything so completely wrong.

Or, to quote Stephen Schwartz, "Wishing only wounds the heart".**

Oddly, the cure for acedia is faith, which is the very thing that I am lacking. Norris writes (somewhere, I can't find the exact quote at the moment) that wanting something with our whole heart and soul, that desire, can help us out of acedia...but honestly, it seems to me the wanting is the problem. The more I want something, the less available it becomes. The Buddhists of course would argue that's exactly the trouble, and encourage me to practice letting go, to practice detachment. Every time I try to meditate, though, the cat comes along and yowls at me, or tries to use me as a scratching post, or decides that is the exact time of day he needs a good belly rub. Or, I fall asleep.

I wish I could be one of those people who could just leave it all up to God, to trust that it will all sort out in time. Whenever I try to listen for God, though, He seems just as perplexed as I am. I get the impression He doesn't quite know what to do with me either. Meanwhile, I'm left to dive the wreck*, looking for clues as to what I should do, where I should go next. I'm trying to be thankful for all that I have, and all that I am, but it just doesn't seem to be pointing me in a productive direction. I'm looking for some sort of gigantic sign post - TURN LEFT HERE, so to speak. I suppose we are all doing this to some extent, but I keep winding up at dead ends, wondering how the hell I could have thought I was headed in the right direction. It's like I got the wrong map or something, y'know???

And isn't a map essentially what religion is? Isn't it basically directions and guideposts telling you how to get from point A to point B? And theoretically, if you follow the map, you get where you want to go, right? And if it doesn't, is it operator error? or is it that the map got misprinted, or is just plain wrong (as someone who has gotten erroneous directions from MapQuest on more than one occasion, let me just say that maps are indeed fallible)? Or, is God saying nope, sorry, wrong exit. Which, y'know, is perfectly reasonable, but I think that if God is going to redirect traffic, he really ought to provide new directions.

*how I do love a good Adrienne Rich reference
**and a good "Wicked" reference.