Monday, September 30, 2019

How To Knit a Pair of Socks

This is a re-posting from August, 2011

Assume you know everything you need to know. Don’t bother getting a pattern. Don’t think about the correlation between needle size and yarn ply.  Don’t ask anyone for advice. Especially don’t ask your mother, who is an expert knitter.

Go to a discount store and buy a skein of the cheapest yarn you can find. Don’t even know if you’ve chosen wool or some sort of acrylic. Don’t think about the meaning of the word “blend.”

Assume one skein will yield one pair of socks. Choose the color lime green. Base your choice on the fact that you don’t especially like the color lime green. Consider the reality that all your favorite socks, in your most beloved colors, mysteriously vanish in the laundry. Resolve that these lime green socks will be with you for the rest of your life.

Cast on.

Immediately realize you don’t know what those two words mean. You understand them individually: cast — the people in a play; on — on the bus, on time, on your mark. You could go on.

Sit and ponder what you need to do in order to “cast on” in a manner appropriate for knitting. Remember all the times you’ve heard people use that phrase. Think of your mother. Stop thinking of your mother. Think, instead, about your friend Julie Pinkus.

Picture her in the dorm room you shared 43 years ago. See her surrounded by balls of yarn. See her hands manipulating knitting needles. Hear the click click click of the needles. Force your mind to see exactly what it was she was doing with her hands and the yarn and the needles.

Realize you cannot force your mind to do anything.

Feel despair. Really feel it. Wallow in despair and discouragement, and also in disgust. Wallow a little bit more. Just a little bit. Remind yourself not to overdo it; you don’t want to step on the down escalator and wake up in the pit of depression. Not because of knitting. Not because of the lime green wool (or non-wool, as the case may be) that is sitting in your lap. Not because of the two knitting needles that, with a bit of creativity, you could easily put to some good use.
Think about the many things you could do with these needles. While you are thinking, transform the skein of yarn into a ball and throw it on the floor. Call to your cat. Observe her delight as she pounces on the yarn and rolls it from one end of the room to the next.
Take the knitting needles and plunge them into the soil of that huge plant you don’t remember the name of — that plant in your living room that’s been listing to the left for six months. Prop the leaning stems against the knitting needles.
Go to the kitchen and get a piece of string from the junk drawer. Tie the plant stems and the knitting needles together. Realize this would have been a good use for some of the lime green yarn, but tell yourself it’s too late now, the yarn is covered with cat spit and you’d rather not handle it too closely.
Think about what a good day it’s been. Your cat is happy, your plant is happy, your mother is happy — because she doesn't know what you've been up to. (If she did know, she'd wonder where she went wrong with you.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stay Open at the Top (dedicated to Jackie Mott Brown)

This is a revised version of a post from years ago

A while ago I attended my first art class since junior high school days

"Look with new eyes,” the teacher urged
"Colors don’t have to make sense"
"Don't be afraid to be tacky" 

"When you think you’re finished, it’s just the beginning" 
“Stay open at the top”

Scattered across the table were tubes of acrylic paints —
bold reds and pretty pinks
lime green and forest green
a yellow so lemony it made my teeth hurt
orange and eggplant
sixteen shades of blue

I freaked out

Then I pulled myself together and
painted a bright red spiral in the middle of my canvas

It looked like a squiggly piece of pasta

A few minutes later I
painted a few yellow circles
next to the red pasta

I painted lots and lots of circles —
the full moon
over and over and over
The woman sitting next to me looked over at my canvas
“What beautiful suns,” she said
And I said “thank you”

I felt like the little prince in the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
when he draws an elephant being digested
by a boa constrictor and the well-meaning
relatives mistake it for a drawing of a hat
But I didn’t correct my sister-painter
because she had used the word beautiful

She didn't say “you stink at this”
and for that I was grateful
even though my moons
would now be suns forever more

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I Hold Nothing Back

This is a piece I wrote many many years ago . . . .

Sometimes when it’s really late at night and I’m lying in bed and I can’t sleep, I worry. I just let myself go. I hold nothing back. I worry about my life and everybody else’s life, including people I don’t even know, and after I’ve worked myself up with all this worrying I realize I am totally 100% awake and then I worry about how I’ll ever fall asleep and I worry about what will happen to me if I don’t fall asleep and soon my head hurts from so much worry and I realize I have to force myself to think about something else and sometimes all I can come up with are more worries which, naturally, doesn’t help, but other times I wise up and hit upon something useful.

Which is what happened just last night.
My head was throbbing from all my worries but I turned on the lamp and reached for my pencil and notebook and started to make a list of everything I could think of that would describe a person who had more worries than I did, a really peculiar, verging-on-unsavory type of person, and this is what I came up with:
Cannot pronounce the letter P
Feels faint at the sight of a strand of spaghetti
Was once engaged to a man named Pinky Carbunkle (had to call him Inky)
Has worn only purple underwear since the age of 12           
Won a blue ribbon 3 years in a row for her beet marmalade
Knows absolutely nothing about anything
Writes the “Misery” column for the local newspaper
Stores her diary in the flour bin for safe keeping
Had 6 brothers who all died under mysterious circumstances
Steals catalogs out of her neighbors’ mailboxes
Carves unidentifiable profiles out of olive pits 

Then I was so tired I shut the light and went to sleep and this morning I felt refreshed and rejuvenated —creative, even — and only mildly troubled by the memory of a dream about getting a ticket for sitting in a car that wasn’t moving and trying to reason with the police officer who said “Is that so, little lady, is that so?”