Saturday, February 16, 2013

February is the oddest month. Last year in March I said, "It's February's fault". Much like last year, I've spent the past week arranging for new tenants upstairs. Right on cue, we have renovations on the brain again. A dear friend is getting married on Monday. For me at least, this is the month of new beginnings before I feel ready.

But--joy!--the Reading Week break starts today. As a student, I am granted the privilege of catching my breath. Today I am going to start the final (read: most terrifying) part of Tim's saddle shoulder sweater--the saddle shoulders. Knitting Without Tears is on the bed beside me, and it is now time to plot my attack. Have a lovely day, readers.


 I was born here. I will never expect spring until May. 
But here, we see winter's first slip up. This is dripping liquid water, and this is the Queen of Narnia's mistake.


Now the sun has started to strengthen. Full of hope and resolve, armed with, inspired by Nice Things--a fountain pen; a pleasing bottle of blue-black ink; Shakespeare's poems in two blue, small, Yale edition volumes; a Lifesaver book; a leather tassel for the zipper on a future garment; Colours of Shetland, Kate Davies's new book; a ceramic slip stone for sharpening my needles, scissors, and knives; the carol CD most prominent in my childhood, a box of Moroccan mint tea, new kitchen shears, money to make this most expensive month a little easier--I am quite ready to shed the old year.

I am thinking of next summer's garden. Tim and I will build more raised beds, will buy a real lawnmower, make the yard better than it was before. Next Christmas I will have jars of jam to give away again, next winter on a night like tonight, I will drink tea from mint that I grew and dried. Simpkin will be grown up, safe, sweet, no longer shivering miserably during thunderstorms.

In the meantime, I feel lucky to be weathering this cold, this smothering northern slowness and isolation with Tim. We had quite the year. We'll have to work hard through the rest of the winter. I go back to work at the cafe tomorrow and my classes start on Thursday. I will need to get up early and go to bed late, to save money to stave off the monstrous leech that is Student Loans, to try to keep reading and writing for myself. But I can do it. I have great plans.

2012 passed by in a bit of a daze. Uprooted in March, I seemed to stop growing. Of the goals I made last January, I can take credit only for flossing and growing a garden. But here at the end, I can add that I managed to get straight A's in my first semester back at uni. And we bought a house. I finally banished the acne that has been plaguing me since I was 19. I published poems in three magazines and got paid for my writing for the first time. We rescued a tiny, sad cat. I struggled through my first "real" job interview. I started learning about making my own clothes. I didn't succumb to seasonal depression. I worked while going to school. As always, I am loathe to say that it has been a Good Year. But it certainly could have been worse. I think I am better equipped for next year: I feel stronger and older.

quagmire mittens

I've entered the quagmire of the semester--I hope to emerge alive in two weeks' time. Today I wrote an imitation of JFK's inaugural address for rhetoric class. Around the 500 word mark it came to me that I would like to start running again, and paint my nails. I feel lethargic and dowdy already, and I fear it is only going to get worse. I have plenty to say on the subject of why it is ridiculous to base 50% of a student's GPA on work accomplished mid-panic attack and on three hours of sleep, and how no one in their right mind could call my generation lazy (though they often do).

I've been procrastinating by finishing these mittens.

The wool is from a Canadian company called Briggs and Little. It's wiry and sheepy, and apparently will last forever. 

I had to do surgery on the cuff of the first mitt I knit. I had to unpick two rows after the second cuff turned out to be shorter. Did you realize that knitting only unravels one way? I feel that I am learning a lot on this knitting-front lately. 

view from indoors

When it's this snowy outside, and the internet says -20 degrees, what do you do? 
Well, you buckle down and do homework--you write 1200 words of the progymnasmata for rhetoric class. 
You drink coffee with milk, listen to Ella and Louis Armstrong.
You shovel yourself and the cat out of your basement cave, and carve a path to the garage.
 You knit mittens, socks, and cocoons.

Cat! The cocoons are finally, nearly finished. Expect some mail soon.

9 to 1

Come September:

English 205 - Traditions in English Rhetoric
English 240 - The Bible in Literature
English 294 - Introduction to Writing Poetry (I may regret this)
English 496 - Intersections: Theory/Culture (Prosody)
History 205 - Medieval Europe

Come January:

English 242 - Augustan Prose and Poetry
English 296 - Reading Creative Nonfiction
English 322 - Medieval Drama
English 365 - Early 20th Century British Novels
English 401 - Studies in Genres

false spring

Happy New Year! Is it even winter?

Some resolutions:

- floss!

- run the 5k in April--officially, this time

- finish a new story

- tend a proper garden come spring (tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, rainbow carrots, beets, kale)

- save 4000 dollars

- lose 9 pounds (I've maintained the same weight and size for about a year now, which means that I'm at a net 15-pound loss from the 164 I started at during the summer of 2010. I still don't feel totally comfortable, or pretty, or healthy, and would like to get down to 140.)

- work through a math text (Zorich)

- work on becoming a better cook (Indian and Thai food, especially)

- finish sewing first dress (brown paisley)

- drink champagne for 21st birthday

I am getting stronger again. Push-ups, planks, pike crunches, free weights, running, stairs.

I started painting the second book cube this evening. Whipped-cream white. It's only taken me six months--what of it?

And the rough shape of a new poem today. Something novel and important, slightly shocking; the crucial thing is to treat it naturally.

I would like to give away a couple of felt books. How to go about it? I am not good at creating hype. If you want one, speak your piece. (I will post anywhere.)

winter victuals

My appetite changed as soon as it snowed. There it was, skipping along from yogurt to grapes to black beans to salsa . . . as soon as it snowed it spun right around. Now I've craving cocoa, gingerbread, dried fruit, soup, potatoes, oatmeal, beer.

(This is what I ate while writing on the couch a few mornings ago.)

(Tim painted my nails iridescent silver last night, while we were at his family's trimming the tree and eating soup, cider and cheese.)


Tim opened at Transcend Saturday morning, and I arrived there soon after him. It had snowed for the first time during the night. I had a bath as soon as I got up, put chocolate-coconut rice pudding and applesauce into small mason jars, got dressed, put on my fur hat and put my handwarmers in to my mitts and walked.

I feel my attention span is getting better. Two triumphs yesterday: the whole morning at Transcend spent on "Thirteen Houses", and part of the evening spent quietly and calmly sanding down the white cube - a task I'd been dreading. Similar projects have not gone well in the past. I've lost patience and walked away from an incomplete job. Actually, last night was one of the most pleasant I can remember. We had garlic-cheddar-tomato toast and chickpea-leek soup for supper. I sanded the cube, then we watched the Star Trek movie. I knitted on my sweater, and Tim carved me a (wooden) "bone" folder. It's beautiful - almost weightless, smooth and silky.

But, as I was saying, my focus continues to improve. It shows up in my conversations with Tim*, and in the demonstrable fact that many or most of my current projects are not ones to deliver instant gratification, and instead must be spread out over weeks or months. And yet I plug on.

* Notes from such a conversation:

Explore the connexion between self-consciousness, the self-preservation instinct/desire, duration of life, analogous duration of personal meaning/reasons: could a engineered, non-evolved self-conscious being be truly apathetic toward its own survival, or would self-consciousness tend to/inevitably result in the will-to-live?

bonfire night

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason, and plot.
I can think of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

We had a Guy Fawkes winter picnic last night. As soon as Tim got home from work, we packed up candles and matches, one tin can, two mandarin oranges, three pumpkin muffins, a thermos full of hot chocolate, and a blanket, and plunged down into the river valley.

It was cold. It was so cold, Tim told me, he thought it would be best to give me one of my Christmas presents right then. It was a good time to talk about thermodynamic phase changes, so we did, sitting on a log at the bottom of a little ravine until it got even colder, and then walking up a hill in the river valley proper to settle right at the feet of downtown.

Sometimes I am proud to live in this cold place, proud of my insider knowledge, my whipped blood, my red hands, my candles for dark nights, my chemical handwarmers, electric cupwarmer, fur hat, stoic husband.
(An aside: Is Tim not incredibly handsome?)

The fire was unruly - dry grass feeding on candle wax. The hot chocolate was sweet. Our hands and feet ached. For the first time all year, we felt the temperature dropping by the minute, and though I don't know why, it was exciting.

We hurried back home to start on a birthday cake for Tim's Mum and to make risotto.

30 Days Hath November

It is the first of November. It is getting cold and dark. The winter does not seem like a harbinger of death this year, only an incubator of life-inside. Everyone is embarking on some project or another - whether growing a mustache (or, like my friend Gustavo, half a mustache), following a charming blogging schedule, or writing a novel. If I am perfectly, perfectly honest, I woke up this morning convinced that I should write a novel, myself.

The idea was tantalizing. And perhaps I am just under-confident, perhaps I am stifling myself, but while I sat in bed considering, one half of me couldn't help reminding the other half of what we set out to accomplish this winter: a fat collection of poems. I think there is a place in the creative life for this kind of self-denial, this wrenching back to the plan one knows is good, one knows could be fruitful. There will be no novel. Instead, over the 30 days of November, I will write 30 poems. Yes indeed, that's exactly one poem a day.

And at the end of the month, this autumn's work will be compiled in a felt-covered booklet - some evidence that I actually do the work I constantly mention. (I cannot publish poems anywhere on the internet if I want them to be accepted by a magazine. Hence the closure of my Etsy shop.) I will stitch the covers in scraps of wool, and print the words on creamy paper. The work is already piling up. Before the year's end, it will turn out that the year will not have been wasted.

How are you spending this darkening month?

a recap

... remember these?

- practice writing whenever and wherever I can (some of these goals are too vague. however, I think I can tentatively check this one.)
- run often, so that I can begin to call myself a runner (as above.)
- lose 9 pounds (nope. it's ok though.)
- find a pleasant job (check!)
- go for a tattoo consultation (not yet. I have yet to decide what I want.)
- brush my teeth more regularly (since I can't have braces yet) (check?)
- continue to grow out my hair (check!)
- take more photographs (...)
- publish Tom-Tom #8 (not yet. it will come. it will come.)
- drink "copious amounts of tea" (check.)
- achieve a 4.0 in my fourth semester (nope. I wrote poems instead.)
- register for a 5k (check!)
- employ a knitting pattern (check!)
- fill two notebooks (one.)
- read 15 non-school books (six.)
- listen to Beethoven's symphonies (now on No. 7.)
- have friends over more often (check!)
- court new friends (check!)
- write with integrity--even for school (check.)
- submit new poems to new magazines (not yet. I have a list though.)
- spend time alone (check.)
- get to know Tim better (check.)
- reduce debt to 500 dollars (how about 0 dollars?)
- become more mindful about shopping (check...)
- start over in the morning (check...)
- take care of my skin (check.)
- dress up more (check.)
- take my vitamins (check!)
- work to become physically stronger (check!)


Up here, too far North, it's getting darker. The late afternoon light disappears by five o'clock. I can't take it. Just like last year, this third week of October has undone me. A threat looms behind my eyes. Lethargy drags at my feet. The air is dry, the city full of crime. My friends despise me. If I breathe deep, I start to cry.

Because I am a plant, Tim is ordering grow lights. He is determined to keep me sane.
He is a good man. I am determined that Winter will not be lost on me.