Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 24, 2016 Mom's sweater

I finally finished it! Yay!! Ruby and Toby love it too! I had it wrapped up in tissue and set it on the floor. Toby peeled the tissue back so he could lay on it and use the sweater for a pillow. Then when I laid it out to take pictures of it, Ruby thought it was for her napping pleasure and plopped down in the middle of it.

Mom had acquired the yarn for this sweater years ago. She found a pattern for a bulky sweater that she liked and set about to make the sweater. The knitting process and the directions weren’t her cup of tea and she ended up tinking (that’s knitting backwards, aka frogging, rippit).
So when I was visiting Mom in April, she offered me the yarn. She said I could make anything I wanted to out of it and I told her I would make her the sweater. We took her measurements and decided which size to make. I weighed the yarn to determine how much yardage was there even though when she bought it they assured her there would be plenty of yarn. 

This was a pretty straightforward pattern, I thought. I’m good at following directions, not so much with making modifications to the pattern to make things fit better. After completing one sleeve, I looked at it and thought it must have been written for a gorilla. Sure, it’s a loose baggy sleeve, but this thing would have fit a body builder, so out it came. Also, if I had made two sleeves that size there really wouldn’t have been enough yarn for the body of the sweater. 

Hi Grannie Helen!

The yarn is pretty, a nubby mix of tan, black and white, but not too friendly to knit with. It has a tendency to stick to itself, it was hard to see sometimes where the stitches were, especially when needing to unknit something. I did plenty of cursing at times when the yarn would separate. And then it came to getting close to the end. I didn’t have enough yarn to get the length in the body as I had feared. I looked all over the internet, Ravelry, eBay and a general search to see if maybe I could find one more skein of yarn, but no luck. I explored a few different options and finally settled on black to make the body long enough. Even though Mom is petite in stature, she didn’t need a cropped sweater.

Now that it’s completed, all washed and ready to go, I’ll get it in the mail next week and she’ll have a nice surprise. I can’t take it in my suitcase when I go to Seattle in November because it would take up half the space, it lives up to being a bulky sweater. 

nice sweater

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October 22, 2016 a silent retreat

I had the pleasure last weekend to attend a small retreat for women. The theme of the retreat was Women in Nature and it was put together by Sky Island Zen in Tucson. It was held at Aravaipa Canyon Ranch, a rustic ranch house in a beautiful canyon alongside a stream. The beauty of it too, was that it was mostly silent. All of the anxiety and uncomfortableness of small talk with people you don’t know is removed. It isn’t necessary to think about what to say during dinner, or that quiet time after a meal and it gives a person a lot of time to be with themselves without distractions.

It wasn’t entirely silent. There were talks given twice a day by the teachers. With these we would sometimes have a listening exercise, where we were given a topic to talk about and each person would get 3 or 5 minutes to talk while the other person just listened. Then we would get another 5 minutes to discuss our thoughts with each other. Or we would have a walking meditation outdoors in the stream or through a small canyon, then there would be a writing exercise and time to share a part of that writing with the group. But mostly it was silent. No music, other than the sound of the stream, the wind in the trees, crickets in the evenings, just the sounds of nature.

the bruised Han
The other thing I like about this type of retreat is that everyone is given a job. There are different roles for the meditation practice and services. Bell ringers, chant leaders and time keepers. There is also the house that needs tending to. While there is a cook, (her meals were fabulous), it was our responsibility to clean up the kitchen after meals. Everyone was assigned a couple of turns on the clean up crew with a different person being the lead. Here you can talk, but just about the work, no small talk about the weather, your cat, your kids, whatever. Just the task at hand. Some people did have a hard time maintaining the silence especially when there was wildlife around. They wanted to be sure that everyone could see the javelina, the paper wasps, ground squirrels, or whatever happened to catch their attention.

my work station
I was tasked with the job of Han, one of the timekeeper jobs. The Han is a bell. Not a typical bell you would think of, it’s made from a plank of wood and is struck with a wooden mallet. In the practice here it was used as the call to meditation. Ten minutes before it was time to get to the meditation room, I would take up my position and begin the countdown with three loud strikes on the Han. Every 40 seconds I would strike it again. At 5 minutes there would be a series of strikes(a roll down) ending with a loud hit.Then two more 40 second intervals, another roll down, ending with a loud hit, then a soft hit, then two more 40 second intervals, ending with a final roll down, with a loud, soft loud hit. The Han had suffered some premature wear from the maple mallet. This Han was made from mesquite, which is softer than maple. After seeing the damage, the head of the mallet was covered with leather to soften the blows to the surface. I thought, it must be possible to strike the Han in such a way as to allow it to sing, without causing it pain. I made it another part of my mindfulness practice, to strike it with the head of the mallet as flat as possible against the surface of the Han and to release the strike so it could sing.

It was a wonderful part of my practice over the weekend. To have that focus 4 times a day, where there wasn’t anything else. Just the bell waiting to be struck. That is also how we can be in our lives, like a bell waiting to be struck. To be ready for our time to sing. 

Another thing about this retreat was knowing that I am part of a community. My practice began in Bellingham. Moving away from my spiritual community I had some concern about how I would keep up with my practice without that community. I have found a lovely group to sit with, but it is a mix of traditions so we don’t have the ritual that comes with the Soto Zen practice. (Dare I use the term ecumenical in the sense that it is a collection of different Buddhist traditions, not Christian? ) So I was happy to find Sky Island Zen. Then, at the retreat, I met two women who know people that I practiced with in Bellingham. It was so wonderful to have that connection. To know that the community is bigger than just where I live. No matter where I go, there will be community.
Brandenburg Mountain

Friday, October 7, 2016

October 7, 2016 Settling In

I have been living in my new home for just over two years and am finally feeling like this is home. I have been talking with a new friend of mine, she has been in her new home here after moving from Maine, just over a year ago. Her place is all nicely decorated, everything unpacked and in its place. I told her I still have boxes of stuff that I haven’t unpacked in the two years I’ve been here and she was aghast! “We have to fix that!” she says to me. 

A few weeks ago when she was at my house, the conversation moved to decorating. She was noticing that I don’t have anything on top of my kitchen cabinets. There is about a two foot space between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling, a perfect place for stuff to gather dust, I say. She says “who cares about the dust? No one is going to see the dust. You need to put something up theah? (She has a very strong New England accent and drops her R’s). I had only randomly placed up there an old kerosene lantern. It looked so out of place, it was just one thing that got unpacked two years ago and I wanted to get it out of the way so I stuck it up there. It has always bugged me but I was too lazy to get it down and move it somewhere else. Also not knowing where else it should be. Back in a box maybe? So I left it alone in its randomness.

We started looking around the house to see what was lying around that might look good on top of the cabinets. I have a couple of tall glass bottles that I love so she said that would be a good start. I climbed up on top of the counter and she handed me the bottles to put in their new place. Looks good so far. Then she says, “what else you got? there’s gotta be something else we can put up theah?” I started looking around for anything that might fill up that space and came across a couple of Chinese baskets. Back up on the counter, she hands me up the baskets and they too now have a new place. The basket on the left was a gift from my friend. She thought it would look good with my two Chinese baskets, and it does. I am blessed with the generosity of friends.

That’s how I then confessed to her that I have a lot of pottery and other stuff still in boxes in the garage. She says, go get it! But that is a project for another day. See how good I am at procrastinating? She is encouraging though and not intrusive. I also can’t get to the boxes because DH has a bunch of his tools and RZR parts spread out in front of the cabinets where the boxes are stored. This next part of the decorating project will have to wait until he has the garage put back together.

Hmm, so DH got the garage cleaned up. Now it’s time to decorate. I got a hold of my friend and we started unpacking.
 First thing was my miniature stove. It was in the unpacking of the parts and pieces when I discovered my small crock did not fare well in the move. Or is that farewell to the crock? The crack it had finally gave way and a big piece fell out. I think I’ll glue it back together because I like it.

Next was the pottery. We got one box unpacked and she was all excited to get started putting them up. I said, “but wait, there’s more.” “There’s more?” she says. “yep”, I say.
“Well, go get ‘em,” she says. So off we go back to the garage to get two more boxes of pottery to unpack. I must say, with help this all goes much more quickly. It was less than two hours we had the stove, and four boxes of stuff unpacked, one box repacked and everything else artfully placed in the high spaces in the kitchen. 

It is a good feeling to get that stuff out of storage. It’s part of the process of letting go. While it is stored, it is out of sight, but not wholly out of mind. It’s clinging to me, something that owns me, that I have to take care of, or it will wind up like the crock, broken. I’ve reached the point where I don’t want my stuff to own me. Having a ‘collection’ of whatever does not bring me joy. What is the point of keeping it if it is just going to be packed in a box, not out where I can enjoy it? I feel by having it out there everyday I will enjoy it while waiting for the opportunity to find it a new home, whether I sell it or give it away. And I would like for it to go where it will bring someone joy. 

July 28, 2018 It's been a busy month

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