Lizards in the Leaves

Rustlings in the green....imagination, art, whimsy

Feb 18, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3 Finale

****** SPOILER WARNING *****

Whether it's a good book or a compelling movie or television show, we  invest some of ourselves in the lives and circumstances of the characters. It's Storytelling with all the implications of that - entertainment, yes, but the best storytelling draws us in and causes us to identify with the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. The best storytelling takes us on a journey with other lives and, for our investment, gives us something  with which to return home. Something useful to our real lives. The best storytelling has a healing effect, even if it has taken us on a journey of immense pain and sorrow.

Unfortunately, the last episode of Downton Abbey simply left us in shock, and gave us no blanket, no iota of comfort or first aid. Not even the wrenching witnessing of others getting the terrible news, sharing our shock. No, instead we got to have the awful knowledge, the horrid visual of Matthew lying there crushed and bleeding and see everyone in their last moments of blissful ignorance, knowing what we know.  Knowing they don’t know and feeling just rotten, and not seeing our feelings mirrored, not being allowed the catharsis. The best storytelling is cathartic.

 I think we could have handled Matthew’s death, even following so closely on Sibyl’s sad fate ( even another juxtaposition of sudden, unexpected death with the joy of birth) if they had not decided to make us wait a year for the consolation of seeing lives begin to go on, however bereaved. One more episode, one more 90-minute or 2 hour episode. A funeral. Some ascerbic wisdom from the Dowager Countess Violet.Something to let us grieve a bit with the family.

Yes, it’s all a fiction. But the best of fiction is Storytelling, healing and cathartic. We have been drawn in to be fascinated with and to care about Downton Abbey’s inhabitants. Last night’s season finale was just….mean.

picture found here

Feb 16, 2013

What IS it??

I am so pleased to say that after some time of not-knitting (I know!), I am at it regularly again.  First it was the video-watching-sock-spree (still going, but at a slower pace) and now I'm involved in a mystery KAL (knit-along) through the Ravelry Interlacements group. I'm not sure where that link will take you if you're not a Ravelry member nor a member of that group within the site, but thought I'd post it anyway and send you exploring.

Martha,  at my lys RiverWools, has gotten in oodles of lovely Interlacements yarn - a hand-dyed yarn that comes in some interesting textures and fibers, and is priced very reasonably for the yardage.  I bought a couple of skeins of Irish Linen, a cotton, flax and rayon blend, and it sat here for a week looking pretty. But it was mum about what it wanted to be.

On Tuesday, I popped into the shop for Open Knitting, something I hadn't done in a great while, and when I asked Jennifer and Susan what they were working on, I got the answer, "I don't know" and they told me about the mystery KAL, where no one knows what they are knitting and the pattern instructions are revealed in chunks every two weeks or so.

I was especially taken by the fact that, at least in the beginning, the pattern stitch is done with two very different needle sizes - alternating a row done with #13 with a row done with #6.  Well, I could hear that yarn calling from home, saying, "Me! Me! I want to be....whatever that is!"

And so it begins. In the colorway "Turkish Carpet." Seventeen inches of this:

Feb 14, 2013

Memoir: Valentine

Valentine, 2008

Yesterday something got me thinking about my mother and her last years. So much there to ask forgiveness for. I was thinking about how hard it was for me to touch her. Even when she begged for it, begged for a hug, said, ‘all I want is a hug.’ Oh, I’d give her a hug, but it would be quick and I would withdraw from it after never fully engaging in it.  I know that sounds horrible.  I feel horrible thinking about it.

What I remember is I was reluctant to touch her early on during the period when she was being diagnosed with dementia. Reluctant because if I got physically close to her, she became like a little girl, clinging to me. It felt like she was going to try to crawl into my lap. I couldn’t…I couldn’t hold my mother in my lap and I was terrified she would ask that of me. So I kept her at arm’s length.

During that same time, she became unable to be alone in her apartment in the retirement community.  I hired an agency to provide companions, some of whom were dreadful. One took my mother out and had her buy her a pizza. That’s another brick in the shame wall, that I put my mother in the care of strangers who were not good people, who took advantage of her. One talked so angrily about her behavior that I let her go. And for nearly two weeks, I spent every night there at her apartment.

That was the last fall my son Patrick was alive. He was 19. I was driving him to work at two jobs,  to outpatient drug abuse treatment, to AA meetings.I was exhausted after nearly a year of that. Fear and worry percolated through me constantly.  So,  I’d be picking up Patrick at the mall at 9:30 pm, sometimes going to get fast food with him, dropping him off at his home, then driving back to Westminster to knock at mom’s door by 10, trying to get there before the companion left.  I remember one night how she greeted me at the door, so happy to see me, as though we were having a girls’ night, a slumber party.  I don’t remember what I said, but I remember how I felt. I felt snarly and angry that I had to be there.  That I’d be spending another night away from my home, my husband, that I’d be waking up in the morning to start the whole routine again.

She didn’t like me to have the tv on those nights. No matter how low I had the volume, she heard it from the next room and it frightened her. She would hear it as people murmuring threatening things. But I needed the tv, the rhythm of the voices, to fall asleep. One night she spent two hours, until well after midnight, with her apartment door open, sitting in the doorway trying to sort her laundry to leave it for  pick-up.. Another night, I sat helplessly while she obsessed over her keys. She was trying to identify them, making incomprehensible marks on a piece of paper. Nothing distracted her from this task.  I had a knitting project with me and I remember working on it those nights, I have a lot of knitting projects that carry the memory and energies of traumatic events. That one was a kind of fine, fuzzy pale green yarn - I think it was an alpaca lace shawl.  I never finished it, it was such a painful reminder of those nights. I bound it off, unfinished. It’s a big swatch, a gauge sample of despair.

I feel badly about how ungracious I was those nights.  The only question now is:  can I forgive myself? Can I forgive that exhausted woman, nourished only by cookies,  fast food and Lean Cuisine frozen entrees, grabbed and microwaved in the scarce minutes she got to spend at home? I was alone on a front line of the suffering of two people I loved dearly, watching both my son and mother falling, unable to save them, but trying so hard, standing there calling and calling and calling to them, throwing useless ropes, searching for help for them…finding none, wearing myself out.

Can I forgive that woman I was?  The woman who was to lose that son at the next spring equinox? Who faced that grief while losing her mother slowly and painfully over the next two years?
Have I suffered enough? Can I feel worthy of a happy life now?

Today is the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death. Valentine’s Day. Love, love, love. She would want me to forgive myself. I believe with all my heart that she has forgiven me. It’s me that needs to forgive me.

In the last 6 weeks of her life, I was able to touch my mother. When I saw the woman from Eldercare kneel in front of her and lovingly take her hands and touch her with great kindness, deepest compassion, I saw how it comforted my mother, how it became a great tenderness in the room and I began to do the same. At that point, I wouldn’t have cared if Mama climbed into my lap. I would have rocked her and rocked her.

Leaves, 2008, knitted in my mother's room in the last days of her life

Pins, 2008, made for the wonderful caregivers my mother had in the last days of her life

(Afterthoughts. Seems odd to call this a valentine.I struggled with posting this at all. I  finally decided this is very much about love. )

miss you, mama.

Feb 12, 2013

"Enough" Work

As I slowly trickled my carefully measured 1 teaspoon of organic cane sugar into my chocolate pu’erh tea this morning, I watched the cascade of individual grains hitting the hot tea, sinking, dissolving. I stirred with my favorite spoon.
Sun lit the quivering surface of the tea and steam rose from it.
I remembered where I bought the pottery cup and what a good time I had there.
The moment seemed full and rich and I appreciated every grain of that sugar, my good fortune to be able to buy organic and the delicate, delicious pu’erh.

I stood in that moment and pondered the notion of abundance and sugar. How sugar is so bad for us because we consume too much of it. We do that because (for a lot of us) sugar tastes so good and makes us feel so good (for awhile) and it is so available to us.

Abundance makes it easy to sugar up. Abundance leads to taking things for granted, to over-consumption. To boredom. And at worst, a bloated, vaguely dissatisfied satiety.

What if, instead of “abundance” work, we did “enough” work?

My yarn stash would be much smaller.
My library would have far less books.
There might even be less of me.

Less of me is what I am working on again. I need to lose weight I regained in the last couple of years.
“Enough” work might be helpful in the endeavor.

Just enough food to nourish my body. Just enough exercise to burn extra calories.
Sounds like a plan to me.

Wish me luck. And just enough.

Feb 7, 2013

Sock Knitting to Occupy My Hands with Other Than Food

I have been watching a lot of Netflix lately. It's my evening pleasure, catching up on years of shows I missed (all the Star Treks, Battlestar Galactica, 24) as well as movies (Tiny Furniture the latest) and some old favorites (Cheers, Frasier.) Unfortunately, I found myself getting pretty munchy, and though I have a pretty clean diet these days, even the healthiest food has those darn calories.

Knitting socks instead of munching is so win-win.  I used to take forever to finish a pair of socks.  That pair on the right in the picture? At least two years. a victim of a raging case of Second Sock Syndrome.
Well, I finished it up in a couple of episodes of 24, immediately began a new pair and knitted both socks during the rest of the series.  I couldn't believe it. Finished one sock and immediately started the second.

Needed some more Kiefer Sutherland, so began to watch his new series, Touch, and I'm well along on the first sock of another pair.  These socks are all Opal (I have a huge Opal stash, acquired at a very reasonable price, thanks to a German eBay seller who listed bags of Opal & other German sock yarn with a "make an offer" button.)  I like to make solid cuffs, heels and toes. I'm just not fond of the way heels look in patterned sock yarns, and there is something that aesthetically pleases me about the complement of the solid colors, the way it frames those patterns in the body of the sock.

So the yarn is Opal and the pattern is my own personal basic sock pattern. One of the things I hoped to do in this spate of sock knitting is to "get" the pattern. Especially the heel turn. To be able to do it in my sleep, to not have to refer to the written instructions. I have probably written this before, but the "how" of heel turning eludes me. I follow the directions and they are like a magic spell - poof! - a turned heel! Wow, how did that happen?

 I have no idea how it happened. I can't visualize what is going on with those short rows. So I'm hoping to change that, to understand the process.  I want to be able to turn a heel with any number of stitches, just in case.  I feel like understanding this will also give me more insight into knitting structure. Also prepare me for any apocalypse which might involve the destruction of all written knitting instruction.

I looked up heel turning and found this handy chart - who knew there were so many varieties of knitted heels! The one I use is the one called Rounder Heel.   I still have a way to go to being able to visualize what is going on with the turning. 

Getting down to the toe of the sock - I love the nice rounded toe in my pattern and the Kitchener stitch finish. There is something beautiful about closing the sock with that seamless stitch.  And I totally get that bit of magic!

Feb 5, 2013

My Brief Correspondence with Anais Nin

I discovered the Diaries of Anais Nin in the early 70s.
I was book dowsing - holding myself still for a moment in the public library, feeling all the books and ideas and words held there - feeling the pull of them. Then holding myself still and allowing myself to be intuitively drawn to one aisle, one set of shelves, where I closed my eyes and let my hand be drawn to a particular book.

 It was one of the Diaries that day, not sure which, but it was one of those books that disrupted my soul, that excited me in that intensely painful way that some things do because fires are lit inside.  Fires are lit and you are burned unless you answer the call to dance around them, to light some of your own. You must move, you must do, you must act....when a book comes at you like that.

At some point, I had to communicate with her.  And I wrote her. 

She wrote me back. On a lovely purple postcard emblazoned with the symbol of Pisces. 

I wrote her again and sent a poem. I am not sure where that poem is, but I remember it was about a room and filled with womb imagery.

She wrote me back on a card contained within a package. In the package were copies of Under the Sign of Pisces / Anais Nin and Her Circle - a newsletter published through Ohio State University.  She said she was ordering her book, Novel of the Future, for me.  And later, it arrived.

I wrote back once more to thank her, but did not hear from her again, nor did I write again.  I felt I had gotten such lovely gifts from her already. To ask for more would have been greedy.


 PS. My mother always wrote letters to writers she admired. She had no reticence about it, nor about sharing her own writing journey with them. Often they wrote her back....William Saroyan, Paul Gallico, John Fahey...all the letters are lost now, but I remember seeing some of them, hearing her speak of them. She also told a wonderful story of meeting Robert Frost, how the room was hushed and reverent, how a line of people silently shook his hand in the reception line, and moved on. How she shook his hand and quite distinctly said," Hello, I'm George-Anna Harbeson and I write poetry, too." Mr. Frost looked at her and said, "Why, I've never heard of you."
 (Happy Birthday, Mom - I do miss your wonderful stories and the way you told them!)

picture with Nin quote came to me from a Facebook friend, but is also found here.

Feb 4, 2013

Brigid Bundles for Imbolc

My primary, most-loved  Imbolc ritual is fiber-related.  For years, on Imbolc Eve (dates of Imbolc differ with various sources, but I go with the night of Feb. 1)  I tied a couple of ribbons on the climbing rose bush by my back porch. The story goes that Brigid will 'bless them in Her passing.'  And the ribbons would become special additions to intention-setting and healing work in the coming year.

Last year, I read something about setting out pieces of cloth in the same way and for the same purpose. So I made bundles of blue cotton tied with green silk ribbon, blessed them through an Imbolc ritual in my CUUPs group, gave some away and set the rest out on Imbolc Eve. I also began left out a blue wrap (in honor of Brigid's mantle) which I wear for meditation and ritual.

Over the years, I've developed a bond with a particular bush in the yard - and this is where I choose to leave my Brigid Bundles.  How fitting for Brigid that it is a Flame Bush!

In any case, I loved having  pieces of sacred cloth to work with through the year - I made pouches and spirit dolls, headache cloths...and used the ribbon to tie precious things.  This year I was first drawn to making some bundles of soft, fraying plain muslin, with sari silk ribbons.

 Then I rolled some more colorful ones.

I smudged them with sage and went out in the dark to set them in the bush.

Last year, I awoke on Imbolc to find the bundles in a world made mysterious with dense, swirling fog.
This year, I found them dusted with an overnight snowfall, accompanied by many tiny birds perched in the top of the bush, which flew off as I approached.


I look forward to whatever work calls me to use this cloth in the coming year.

Blessed be!


Feb 2, 2013

Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Slam Imbolc 2013

Blessed Imbolc!
Here is my contribution for this year's reading:

Defending Yourself Against Love

When, plump and warm and a little wild,  
love tries to climb in your lap
and come at you
with a golden arrow, just-sharpened
and fledged with dove feathers,
you feel how very cold is the stone
home you’ve made for yourself,
yet still pretend to resist
the willful advance.  Then
suddenly you come all undone
in one innocent moment….
looking at a map together, you bump heads,
curls brush your cheek

soft as dove feathers…
and you yield, knowing
you want the wound, hungering
for kisses like honey
to seal it, to heal it.

--Zann Carter (2012)
 after the painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Girl Defending Herself Against Love

Feb 1, 2013


the snow in me greets the snow in you

A lovely, bright extremely cold morning.
My hair is washed. I have eaten oatmeal and berries. I am drinking chocolate puerh tea. I am well along on a Second Sock.
The new candle is lit for Patrick again.

This morning I awoke thinking, as I have done for most mornings these last almost-seven years, that the world is just not right. Because Patrick died. Because he isn’t here with us anymore.
Then I thought something unthinkable. What if that isn’t true? What if things are exactly right? What if I start to explore that possibility? That the world as it is, is right.
It is awful to begin the day affirming the wrongness of the world.
What if I consciously begin the day affirming its rightness. Just as it is. Just as it happened.
I would have to accept that Patrick’s life was complete somehow.
How can I do this? It hurts at my core to even write this.

Yet, it seems important to go there.
To go to a place where I awake feeling the world is right.
Feeling that my son’s spirit is just where it is right for it to be.

What if I just try that for awhile?