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Time for something completely different. This month, this amazing leap year month, I want to explore positive things. Things that make me happy. Sources of delight – which I recently heard described as the butterfly tingles that are a precursor to joy. Bits of amazement, moments of beauty, introspective meanderings, I don’t care. I want to shift away from daily dribble and angry rants that have been the hallmark of the last few years. “Be the change you want to see” is a popular phrase these days - it all starts with me. Can I do this for the shortest month?
Imbolc is the promise that spring is coming, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. Normally it is freezing cold and we have snow but today it is almost balmy, although not a lot of sunshine. There are tulips and daffodils and God knows what else beginning to poke their way up through the earth because it has been so warm in the last week. Without the cover of snow to insulated it from the sun the earth is starting to warm up, rather alarmingly given it is just February. The harbingers of Spring are starting to make their appearance.
Today’s moment of delight, and an honest laugh, came from a pair of otters. The cell phone video of a pair of otters in Edinburgh, in the city center, was surprising. Otters, in Edinburgh? Apparently they are a novelty, rarely seen. But bobbling along as they do on land, ambling alongside the canal, clearly gawking at everything around them was charming, but when one rolled around and fell into the water – you can’t make this stuff up. The other otter peeked over the edge, making concerned noises, as the other swam in the canal in search of a way up.
Sometimes I like the stories LeVar Burton reads in his podcast. Sometimes I love the reading by LeVar, even if the story is meh. But today, listening to “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear, the season six kick off from LeVar Burton Reads, I love the story and the reading. It is hands-down the delight for the day. A positive imagining of artificial intelligence even in the midst of a horrible however likely future reality for humanity. I’m all but crying at the end of the story, not sad, but the bittersweet feeling when art successfully captures something essential to human experience.
The delight today is one of looking forward to Presidents Day – a found holiday! I didn’t realize until today that there we get a holiday this month! Working for a small business, I don’t get all the holidays. Discovering that there will be a long weekend coming soon… it is a bit sad to realize how happy a single day off makes me, but I am going to ignore that part for now and just be like a child who wakes to discover a snow day. Never mind that my “snow” day is still a week and a half off.
This very warm February, the pool cover holds water, fallen leaves and other detritus of late fall, creating a very small pond, rather than a miniature skating rink. From the windows upstairs I have a very good view of our “pond” and I sometimes have the opportunity to see wildlife making use of the pond. This morning, it was a lone mourning dove splashing at the water’s edge like a small child before trundling in to take a dunk for a morning bath. The flock of mourning doves pairs that have taken up residence our back yard makes me smile.
The heavy DK weight silk/cashmere is a pale green, almost the celadon of Asian ceramics. It is so very soft, with the slightest cashmere halo fuzzing the edges, but there’s a definite silk sheen. It is the very best silk/cash blend I’ve ever seen and I’ve struggled with what to make with it that will do it justice – it is one of my Holy Grail yarns, in stash for many years. But having written the line above, I see it: an adaptation of the modern, clean, Japanese pullover, Calla Lily. My yarn needs seams for structure, to retain its shape.
The smell of fried chicken wafted to me from across the parking lot. What is it about that scent that makes it so delicious? I think it is better than the smell of bacon. Each of those are unmistakable, you know exactly what it is that you’re smelling. When I finally walked in to the store, it was like walking in to a wall of flavor. There was no way I could walk out of there without buying some of the fried chicken myself. I am very proud that I managed to not eat any of it while driving home.
Fresh baked goods for breakfast are a real treat. The breakfast cake recipe is a household favorite. I enjoy it even when I choose to make a blueberry and lemon variety that himself favors. It is easy, although not necessarily as quick as muffins. Next time I may put it into muffin tins and see what happens, because the crusty edges are so very yummy. Raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, they’re all delicious. But now I’m wondering about trying a pear and dark chocolate version, rather than the messy scones I did. Baked in a muffin tin – oh, a texas muffin pan!
Narcissus at the office in just one week have gained 3 to 5 inches and have already begun to show buds in the little delicate pods at the tips. Daffodils in the sunny corner of the front walkway are showing slightly yellowing bulges. I am looking forward to the white narcissus at the office, a delight when I have not been able to enjoy for the last several years since former boss lady hated the smell of narcissus. I hate the smell of stargazer lilies to be quite honest, so I understood. But this year, I am free to enjoy.
It is very rare that I am able to spend an evening watching whatever what I want to watch on the big tv. To have such an evening midweek is an unexpected delight. Never mind the less than delightful reason of the circumstances that created this opportunity. As it is a weeknight, I won’t stay up late watching from DVR or a saved watchlist, but I do enjoy being able to sprawl on the couch and turn the volume down low. Watching something that is actually quite entertaining (girly or not, I don’t know) while knitting… my kind of evening.
My daily commute, unchanging in route and unvarying in time, has allowed me to really take note of the changing seasons. Snowfall undisturbed on branches, evergreens and stones can be mesmerizing. The first hints of green, like the changing color of the willow trees and the occasional glimpse of spring bulb shoots are visible in this early spring. It also highlights changing light: a corner where for a few weeks I’m blinded by the sun just above the trees, then suddenly it's already moved on. The joy of that day when I get home and it is still light out.
After the quiet of winter –even a mild one such as ours with almost no snow- there is a particular delight in hearing birdsong again. As I did today! I have no idea when is a “normal” spring time to hear birds chirping and tweeting. Just as I have no idea what bird I actually heard today, but there it was while sitting at the desk in my home office this afternoon. I have heard the hawks recently, and possibly an owl, so clearly the great outdoors is beginning to wake up. My daffodils, however, have still not actually bloomed.
“Chocolaty coating” – a horrible phrase that promises I’ll be disappointed by it. White chocolate isn’t chocolate, and I don’t like it, period, the end, finished. Milk chocolate – well, even when it is high quality (and none of the commercial candy bars are high quality) it just isn’t very good in my humble opinion. Semi-sweet chocolate, again, quality is often an issue, but in cookies, muffins, scones or brownies it is acceptable. Halb-bitter (German) chocolate is less sweet than semi-sweet and can be good for direct enjoyment but if you want to make me happy, give me dark chocolate, preferably 70%.
Astonishment and delight! I was able to upgrade DH’s operating system today with absolutely no fuss. This is how technology is supposed to work: it does what it says it is going to do, no muss, no drama, just plug it in and go. For whatever reason, I haven’t really experienced this kind of simply successful upgrade very often, even after the switch to Apple more than ten years ago. There was often some issue, some last file or reboot that didn’t happen cleanly that left me with an error message I couldn’t resolve on my own. Oh, Happy Day!
From the very beginning, there was something that delighted me about being able to see progress, in just one day, when knitting. There is something wonderful about watching a sleeve take shape and grow into something tangible in a few hours. I am making real progress in the BangOutASweater knit along. That means the sweater is now large enough that it is a challenge to work with in my lap. I will be joining the sleeves to the body tomorrow and then it will be a right royal challenge. But it looks like I may actually finish it during February!
Liminal. Onomatopoeia is not quite the right word, but to me, the word liminal somehow expresses through its very sound the concept being on the threshold, being between two places -seeing them but being part of neither. It is a grounding concept for me, and on the equinox and solstice and the other fire festivals try to attain that kind of awareness. Yoga, conscious dreaming, that moment upon waking where you were just dreaming so vividly and surreal that for a few brief seconds you are awake and still floating in the dream: your brain is caught between two realities.
Watching the moon and all its phases, its different colors and aspects makes me happy. I make a special effort to watch the full moons each month, although it is extremely weather dependent. In the last several years my most regular moon-viewing time has been from our bedroom window in the wee small hours when the moon is high, cold and bright in the western sky as dawn approaches. I love catching glimpses of a crescent moon at the (new) kitchen window while doing dishes. I sometimes drive out of my way to continue driving toward a rising full moon.
Medicine has progressed in so many ways in the last forty years, our (default) expectation is that doctors can fix just about everything, if given the opportunity. The ability to image so clearly, in real time, so many different parts of the body has changed the game, even if we are not yet at the stage of the medical tri-corder that Dr. McCoy had on the Enterprise. Today I had multiple opportunities to be happy about this progress, even if it was challenging to remain focused on that progress and potential throughout the very long day that started before 5:00AM.
Sifting through recipes online for whole grain and oatmeal based breads is a nice break from trying to think critically and edit a paper about a study I wasn’t actively involved in (and don’t really agree with the premise) but will have my name on it. There are so many different whole grain recipes these days, but I’m trying to find one that will be like the slice of a Tom Cat 7 grain baguette I used to get with my salad. That bread is absolutely delicious on its own. Finding healthier ways to bake is essential to my success.
Some days don’t bring much in the way of obvious delight. But at the close of such a day, we finally gathered again for knit night, five of us. It was a harmonious grouping, with D joining us for the first time in absolute ages. There may have been less conversation than usual, but we were all making progress on knitting, even L. Job stuff was a primary topic all around: we’re all having issues and most are ready to make significant changes. Today was a reminder that sometimes, you just have to wait through the day for the payoff.
The new Sanditon series on Masterpiece Theater isn’t really by Jane Austen, but it hits on two other things that bring me joy: Jane Austen novels and really well done period cinema. Combine the two –as in the original (only!) Pride and Prejudice- and I am very happy. In high school, I read all of Jane’s novels for my author report in EnglishLit. I was new to that school, didn’t know how things ran, so I erred on the side of completeness, astonishing teacher and classmates. But I wouldn’t have read them all if I hadn’t enjoyed reading her work.
There is something joyful about baking– perhaps because it is a choice not a requirement. Although I would love to bake everything in sight – all our bread and sweets – it isn’t possible at this time, for many reasons. Like knitting, there is something profoundly satisfying in the act of making something that is both useful and beautiful. On days like today, when the knitting doesn’t work out, baking may provide an alternative outcome. And if you’re trying a new recipe, you only have to wait an hour or two to discover if it worked out or not. Unlike my sweater.
The mist rises from the fields as the sunlight streams down. I don't know what it is about the sight but it is quite mesmerizing even if the rest of the area is dry enough that there is no fog. There is a certain wild / wildly romantic / no humans around / aspect to the landscape. The large cleared fields are now fenced with new posts and wire fencing, with no trespassing signs posted, creating an irregular, a rectilinear geometry and order imposed over and behind the softly swirling pockets of morning mist, some transparent, some translucent, some opaque.
The choral music from the 15th and 16th centuries fascinates me, at least when recorded by The Sixteen. I did not grow up listening to church music, but I did briefly flirt with singing in a church choir. I can’t help but see the brilliant colors streaming through a stained glass window and lighting up some massive gothic cathedral when I listen to the music. The harmonies –which seem so daring to ears which came of age in the 20th century – are unbelievably lush and complex. The music is an achingly lovely, terrible beauty that helps me wake up gracefully.
On rainy days or holiday the roads are often deserted. Although I like the concept of a day off work on a holiday, I actually enjoy driving to work on a holiday, when everyone else is staying home. There are no school buses, no teachers or white collar workers. Driving honestly seems pleasurable when there are hardly any other cars around, a rarity in daylight around here. It sometimes happens if I get an early start on a Monday morning. It is rather amazing what a difference thirty minutes can make on the commute. But only on a Monday. Pity.
It is rarely as bad as you think it is going to be. That task that you don’t want to do, for whatever reason, so you just avoid, avoid, deny, and ignore it? After buckling down and doing the thing last night after avoiding it for two days, correcting the error, mistake, unfortunate circumstance, accident, whatever it was, I am back to making forward progress. There is a particular relish in such forward progress when you have been… not making forward progress. Of course, that relish makes it difficult to determine if you’re about to repeat the error, mistake, accident…whatever.
As is often the case when knitting is not going well, a case of start-itis sets in. I want to cast on about five different projects RIGHT NOW. My recently discovered solution (because really, the goal is to FINISH, not START things) is to swatch something, preferably in yarn that is completely different than the problem project. So tonight at knit night I spent some time working on the swatch of laceweight cashmere, on size 0 needles. What a change from the Big Blue Squeeze on size 13s. A swatch is often enough to quiet start-itis, but not tonight. < sigh! >
Leap Day! I love leap days. Why? I have no clue why. I think as a child, the idea of an almost randomly occurring extra day – filled with extra time, that most measured and regulated non-physical commodity- fascinated me. Just like I love getting the extra hour when Daylight Saving Time falls back. Or when on a busy day, you look at the clock and it isn’t as late as you thought it would be – you still have time. It is something like the idea of a lagniappe. A little bonus, not because you earned it, just because it is.
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