the end of summer (means jam)

Welcome to the first Saturday in September. Here is the news:

1. School started. I'm taking Epistemology, History of Early Modern Europe, Writing a Sense of Place, Middle Eastern Narratives, and 18th Century Rhetoric. (And starting my honours thesis on Emily Dickinson. Gulp.) I'm smitten with my creative writing prof and I get to read Persepolis for Middle Eastern Narratives. 

On the first day of school, I walked in to a gym for the first time. In spite of my nervousness (I was actually shaking), I squatted 105 pounds--a personal record, and due to nerves, done in record time. 4 days later, I'll still howl if you touch my quads. 

2. The garden has lapsed into wilderness and I am only trying to hunt and gather as much as I can. I finally made that borscht. I've also canned 12 jars of applesauce, 8 jars of rhubarb, 5 jars of raspberry, and 1 doll-sized jar of gooseberry jam (more on the jam later), 5 jars of salsa, and 2 jars of pickled peppers. I've chopped up and frozen pounds of rhubarb and zucchini for winter baking. I still need to dig up the potatoes, but I ate baby carrots at school and work all week.

I invented a genius slaw with the first of my green cabbages: Wash 1 small green garden cabbage thoroughly, removing dirt, slugs, and larvae. Chop finely. Mince 1 clove of garlic. In a large bowl, whisk together tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, white sugar, lemon juice/white vinegar, black pepper, sesame seeds--all to taste. Add chopped cabbage, stir to coat, and eat immediately. 

3. I took Simpkin to the vet in our new bike trailer. On the way home, we stopped at a new cafe. I got a job interview. I start on Monday. That makes three paid jobs for me, because--have I told you?--I've also been moonlighting as a speech pathologist's assistant, working on pronunciation, grammar, and reading comprehension with a brain injury client since late winter. It's fascinating. 

4. It's getting chilly, and Fall in Edmonton is beautiful. On Thursday night after I got out of class late, Tim and I bought curry in Garneau, then walked across the highlevel bridge to eat in the park. This was the view on the way over. On the way back, the sun directly behind us and the river valley falling away under the middle of the bridge, we saw a full 360 degree rainbow. The timing was incredible--Tim had just been explaining about them. 

5. After having the top of my head taken off by the brilliance of House of Cards, I think I've discovered more great TV. I started The Honourable Woman last night and I'm already wondering how I'm going to accomplish anything until I've finished it. So far, the cinematography and screenwriting are perfect, and the characters are beyond intriguing. Also: Maggie Gyllenhaal.

6. Truly Myrtle's new series, Share All the Things Friday, is delightful and the inspiration for this random collection of a post.

7. I started the gauge swatch for this sweater. It's going to be Tim's Christmas present. The last time I planned to give him a sweater for Christmas, I finished said sweater in March. Clearly, the time to begin is now.

8. And finally! It's time to give away some jam. I've been doing this giveaway every summer for two or three years now, and it is one of my favorite blogging traditions.

Would you like a large jar of rhubarb jam, made and canned by me from the rhubarb growing in our garden (transplanted from my Opa's acreage the first summer we lived here)? For my part, I would love to send you one. I'll ship anywhere in the world. To enter, leave a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter. If that doesn't suit you, send me an email. Let me know what you like to eat for breakfast. Lately I've been stuck on a toast-with-cheddar-and-jam kick. I'll draw a winner (or two) on Wednesday night. 


Tonight was the night. 

Puffin pictures at last. I am so incredibly proud of this sweater. 

As an aside, I think I'm finally getting slightly more comfortable in front of a camera. Thanks to Tim for the expert photography. No grimacing to speak of!

Just this. This is what happens when a mosquito interrupts one of our photoshoots:


My friend Dylan is a filmmaker. This summer, he's up in Northern Saskatchewan directing a TV series about a remote fishing community. He's two years older than me, miles ahead of me in his development of a career in creative work; the level of responsibility he has on this project is something I've never experienced. Yesterday, Dylan published a post relating how, on Tuesday, a lapse of his own judgement resulted in both of the project video cameras falling out of a capsized canoe and into the lake. Though I don't want to make light of his agonizing circumstances, it's an edifying post (even an uplifting one); and I immediately recognized that it hovers on the edge of a cloud of ideas that I've been preoccupied with for the past few weeks. Dylan writes:

I lay there in bed, obsessing over the embarrassment of this, physically pained by it, when suddenly a wave of calm came over me. I realized that I was experiencing the price of leadership. I recognized the importance of accepting the consequences of making terrible decisions as well as you would the praise for achieving something wonderful. I’m a movie director, not a captain in the army: the decisions I make will likely never result in someone losing a loved one. I re-evaluated the stakes, re-focused my energy. I owned my shit.
It was an epiphany. I’m twenty-five years old; maybe it was the final piece of my pre-frontal cortex snapping into place. I recognized how much ambivalence I was succumbing to in many different facets of my daily life. All the ambiguity I had been letting lie in relationships with friends and family. This event has awakened a desire in me to become more forthright and confident in everything I do, to never half-do anything ever again. To be straight with people – to tell them exactly how I feel. To not second-guess a decision while I’m in the process of making it. I’m willing to experience embarrassment and shame over and over again if it means that I can continue to dictate my own path in life, stand for something. I want to lead. I can lead. The depth to which I get emotionally invested in my decisions opens me up to a lot of pain, but it can also inspire others. This is what I want.

I have been thinking about how I want to live, what my rules will be, who I will be.

At the end of a year of extreme self-permissiveness combining with stress and anger to produce the precise opposite of a deliberate life, I am ready for self-discipline, aching to grow up.

I want to be able to fall back on some knowledge and trust of myself the next time a state of crisis ensues, rather than simply falling, and falling, and falling. 

Responsibility and anti-ambivalence are at the heart of the cloud.

I have been thinking in particular about the importance of keeping commitments--to other people but especially to myself. I'm suddenly convinced that the value of lifting has been half in the perpetual return to my workout schedule. I fall off the bandwagon, go a week without touching a barbell, then I come back. I've kept a running tally of my workouts this summer: at least 32 times, I've gone out to squat, press, deadlift, row, whether I've felt like it or not. (Yesterday I deadlifted 225 pounds, and squatted a nice even 100 pounds.) My body has changed drastically, but more significantly, I've begun to trust myself to show up. 

Dylan's remark about allowing ambivalence to breed and fester in decisions and relationships rather hit home. Trying to explain it to Tim this morning, I said: "It's amazing how often we try to pass the buck on the most personal obligations, on the things that should be of primary concern to us because they determine who we are; it's amazing how often we try to pass the buck when it has absolutely nowhere to go."  

Ironically enough, I often try to foist responsibility on to my own to-do lists. I allow these lists to be facilitators or inhibitors of happiness and peace of mind. I allow them to determine when I have been productive, when I am finished working, when I can and cannot rest. Last week, I wrote: 

Of course it seems too simple and obvious in retrospect, but now that I've finally stumbled into it, this idea will become my saving grace: 

Undone tasks and possible experiences are not real. They are not as important as what you are actually doing and have done. Do not let them become more important; realize that they do not actually exist to harass and plague you. There is no catching up, there is only what you actually do every day. You could add to a list endlessly--or you could subtract as much as you want. 

Writers have a tendency to gripe and moan about their own work, to go on at length about the chore of writing, to patiently explain what a fucking monumental task it is to sit down at a desk every day and try to squeeze out sentences. Writers, it seems, like to pass the buck on their own chosen creative endeavor. They occasionally behave as if someone else was standing over them, forcing them to scribble or type (but it is only them). Over the past five years, I've been lucky to get to know, in person and through their blogs, many hard-working, talented artists working in more concrete mediums. (Justina Smith, Ysolda Teague, Jillian Lukiwski, Emily Sims, Kelly Clark, Kate Davies, Allison Sattinger, and Shane Hauser come to mind.) These artists do not habitually complain about painting, drawing, silversmithing, designing, photography. Instead, I notice how regularly many of them remark on how grateful they feel to be able to do their work. I'd like to follow such a good example. Not everyone has the luxury of time and space that I have to sit at a desk with a laptop--or sit in bed with a pile of looseleaf and a cup of tea and a fountain pen. 

I started writing this post at 7 am. It's been a weird, molasses-slow morning--our dear friend Laura was over last night. We went here for dinner. Though I went to bed around midnight, Laura and Tim were up drinking beer and giggling until 3. Today, when everyone woke up, we sat around eating pancakes for hours. It's now 1:19; I've rambled. My Opa just dropped off a pail of crab apples. I'm going to spend this afternoon making applesauce. I canned my first batch of salsa yesterday. It's chilly outside. Simpkin just had his two-year check-up and rabies booster shot. I've started a list of pieces to go in the new zine. School starts on Tuesday. We're one step closer to a modeled picture of the puffin sweater--the washing machine and dryer are wearing it here. 

laundry room puffin.JPG

long player late bloomer

stitching books.JPG

(A self-referential post. Let's start with the fact that these photos have been waiting for almost a month to be blogged. )

I've begun to suspect that I don't live my life in the same briskly moving sequence other people do. Looking over my stint as an adult so far, I see one elongated time-frame that I have been drawing out, freakishly, miraculously, year after year.

I am twenty-three. My goals haven't changed much since I was seventeen and most of them are still unmet. I am working away at projects I initiated years ago. I am still trying to keep up with a person I no longer am, still trying to reconcile my idea of a good life with the memory of one particular summer. It's taken me ten years to learn to take my makeup off at night.  I still consider myself a novice in the arenas of Exercise and Healthy Eating. And I've been trying to make the same pot of borscht for a week. 

In the picture above, there's a pile of zines. It's four weeks ago, and I'm in the middle of stitching them up. They're a reprint of a zine I published three winters ago. They're what I consider almost-current work. 

I published my first zine at age 14, so I've been doing this almost as long as I've been a poet. Along with everyone else, I expected to grow out of the practice. When I briefly opened a zine-selling Etsy shop in the summer of 2010, I felt childish--and yet, I've spent the past several weeks making the same zines I sold in that shop into a digital archive which I proudly display on my brand-new, very-official, I-bought-a-url website. I'm writing poems to print in a new zine in September. 

In the image below, tails and tops from this year's first beets. I think I've taken this picture before. I've certainly turned it into a poem. It's in the zine shown above. Apparently my own poems are circling back to life.


These geraniums are the first I've ever had, but I've been wanting to grow them for oh, five years or so?


Here is another glimpse of my puffin sweater, emerging from its blocking bath in the kitchen sink. No, I have not yet taken modeled photographs. So far, this sweater has been almost two years in the making. I decided I wanted to knit it soon after the pattern came out in December 2012, which was also when Tim's mum bought me Colours of Shetland (Kate Davies's incredible first collection of patterns, including the puffin sweater) for Christmas. In December 2013, I got the yarn for the sweater, also from Tim's mum. In March of this year, while I was in Iceland, I finally cast on.

emerging puffin.JPG

And this. This is a sock, or will be. The first of two for my friend Tara, who lives in Detroit, is a PhD student, and once sent me Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman--a perfect present. I promised Tara socks two years ago, right before I promised myself I'd knit a Puffin. 

To round up a few more examples that I don't have photographic evidence of, I'll mention the loaf of Borodinsky Bread that I baked this week. It was the next recipe in Bread Matters, a book I've been working through, Julie-Powell style, since January 2013. The last time I progressed to a new recipe was in April 2013. Why has it taken me this long to get to Borodinsky? Well, there was the hellish autumn. (Note that the hellish autumn began at the end of last August. We're already edging into an autumn that I hope and expect will be much happier, but my instinctive use of language only proves my point: time is unbroken between this autumn and last and sometimes I have an odd foreboding sense of deja vu, as if I am appoaching hell all over again.)  But I also had to obtain rye malt extract, which took me approximately 14 months to track down and order from a brewing supply company. This bread, though, at long last, is scrumptious. 100% sourdough rye with malt and . . . coriander seeds. Sweet Jesus, why haven't I had coriander in rye bread before?

There's also the book of poetry I'm reading, Jesse Patrick Ferguson's Harmonics. It was assigned in a prosody seminar I took in the Fall semester 2012. I presented papers on two or three poems from the collection and managed to essentially ignore the rest. Then, a few weeks ago, a friend picked the book off of my library cart bookshelf and asked me about it. I said something vague about poems by a young Canadian poet who didn't sound like Margaret Atwood but actually straddled the line between formal and free verse in much the same way I try to do . . . Hearing this description coming out of my own mouth, it suddenly occurred to me that I might want another look at this young Canadian poet. As it turns out, two years later, these poems are marvelous. Here's a short one (but if you want a long one, ask me to email you the text of "Work"--I'd be so happy to):

Greasy Spoon Triolet - Jesse Patrick Ferguson

This coffee's black as Satan's piss,

so pass the creamers my way.  

When she comes back, tell her this--                                          

the coffee's black as Satan's piss.                                  

Something's amiss, my little Miss,                                            

and I don't tip well, anyway,                                          

when coffee's black as Satan's piss.                                

Now pass the creamers my way.


And Ron Sexsmith gives me a post title and signs me off. 

xx Lizzie