Category Archives: Blog posts

Lazy Summer Days

I’m sitting on my front porch writing this blog post, after neglecting my site for many weeks.  I have been on vacation, aside from three days of work, since early June.  I really have no excuse for not blogging aside from the major distractions caused by knitting, some gardening and social media.  I’m really enjoying the routine, but why do I feel a small sense of guilt because of all the things I’m NOT doing?  Rhetorical question.

I did some very timely gardening work in June, which bore fruit! My roses are doing much better this year (maybe it’s the plentiful rain, not my soil amendments that did the trick, but anyway!) Most of the other plants are doing well, too,  and the beauty of the garden brings me such joy.  Dave and I tend to stay at home a lot when we’re off work and by that I mean, no trips to the Jazz Fest, no visits to museums or bike rides, etc.  I find I have tons of things to do here and find a lot of enjoyment in the daily activities of home. Next week at this time we’ll be in Venice and then Edinburgh for our daughter, Erica’s, wedding, so that’s when we’ll be out and about plenty!

Single yellow roses, doing well this year!

Today is Friday so it’s Knitting Circle at my Local Yarn Store (LYS), Espace Tricot, this afternoon.  I always look forward to it as a nice social time to catch up with my knitty buddies and see what projects they’re working on.  I finished my wedding present for Erica, which is a long, zany scarf known as The Scarfy Thing.  It’s the perfect name for it.  I had such fun knitting it and I hope Erica ends up using it a lot.  We’ll see.  The colours might not be her favourites, but I bet she’lll get lots of comments when she wears it! Now I’m working on a blue linen shawl that I plan to wear at her wedding, which is coming up in three weeks(!) Very exciting.  Despite my arm pain, which makes me take many breaks during a long row of knitting,  I’m making decent progress on it and I should be able to get it done by then.  I’ll add a few pictures to this post to give you an idea what these projects look like.

The Scarfy Thing!

I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a video podcast.  It would be about knitting, mostly, because it’s the best medium to connect to other knitters around the world.   Many knitters (myself included) watch knitting podcasts (inviting gentle ridicule from their husbands!) while knitting.  It makes sense! You don’t have to watch every second in case you miss something, so you can concentrate on your knitting (as long as it’s mostly stockinette or garter stitch!).  It’s also inspirational because the podcasters show what they’re working on and what challenges they’re facing, what is new in the yarn world,etc.  Plus, it’s fun to get a little window into regular people’s lives, because the people who do these podcasts are mostly just average Joes who love to knit!  Some might own yarn shops or are yarn dyers, but many are just doing it in their spare time because they love it.  I’m definitely in the latter category, so I figure, why not?  My main obstacle is technical; I’m not great in front of the camera (I’m a “low-talker” as my husband says) and I have no idea how to edit.  I tried it a bit on my iPad but the learning curve is a bit steep. I’ll have to figure it out bit by bit, I guess!

So, next time maybe I’ll add an introductory video to try out on you! We’ll see!

Happy Knitting and Gardening, my friends! Xoxo

My Blue Linen Shawl

My Crafty Grandmother

I recently found myself thinking about my paternal grandmother, Jean Lee.  I didn’t get to know her all that well because she lived in Winnipeg and I grew up in Montreal, but our family visited probably once a year or so.  My grandmother  taught school in a one-room schoolhouse starting at age 16, but gave it up when she got married a few years later.  She then raised my father and aunt and looked after the house and her husband for the rest of her life.  I imagine she found plenty to keep her busy just doing those things, but on top of that the urge to create was strong in her. Over the years she quilted, sewed, knitted, did leatherwork, learned découpage, and was an accomplished painter; those are the ones I’m sure about.  I’m pretty sure she embroidered and possibly did some weaving, also.   I think I may have taken her abilities for granted when I was young, but since I’ve taken up knitting, I appreciate her talents a lot more.  Practicing one of those skills is challenging (take it from me!), but having the curiousity and drive to tackle all those skills, is pretty amazing.  Perhaps she went through phases, didn’t do them all at once, but still!

As kids, my siblings and I  (Grama only had four grandchildren through her son and two step-grandchildren through her daughter) were each the recipient of a quilt and a knitted blanket, amongst other, smaller things.  I remember receiving a handmade turquoise mini-skirt, which I loved; a couple of paintings, one of a fox that I particularly liked; and after my grandmother passed away all of her things were spread out around the family.  She made a beautiful leather briefcase that my husband used for years until it finally gave out; I still have one of her large paintings in my house; I have a découpaged jewelry box she made.  So many beautiful items came from her talented hands.  I know her enthusiasm and love for crafting was passed down to her daughter, my aunt Thelma (an accomplished weaver) and my sister, Nora, and I, who both knit and Nora is an expert rug-hooker and enjoys sewing.  I’d love to think that crafting will continue to be a part of our family for generations to come, despite full-time jobs that take so much time that previous generations of women might have used to create things (both useful and decorative).

Now, crafting is seen as a purely leisure activity, something one can take or leave as individuals see fit. Pleasant but entirely unnecessary. Now, I’m convinced that it’s absolutely necessary, even more so because things are so easy to acquire these days.  Order a sweater on Amazon, and it arrives in a day or two.  Casting on yarn and creating that sweater from scratch makes you truly appreciate what goes into it and brings you closer to your ancestors, who would be knitting as they waited for the soup to boil, while the baby nursed, and in between everything else.  Where else would the family get their socks, sweaters, hats, mitts, etc?  Thank you, Grama, for passing on the crafting gene.

Colourwork and Sock Fun

I did some gorgeous mittens in my first year back at knitting called Fiddlehead Mittens By Adrian Bazilia.  I had so much fun doing stranded knitting that I was sure I’d be churning out sweaters and more of those great mittens for the rest of my life.  However, like a kid in a candy store I was attracted by all the other pretty things and I’ve done very little colourwork since then.  Lately, I’ve picked it up again and it’s delighting me as much as ever.  I was reinfected with the bug thanks to a Celtic Cast On podcast I watched awhile back.  In it, Kelly was wearing a gorgeous sweater called Sundottir and I thought, I have to make that!

Second sleeve of my Sundottir with added colourwork detail not in the pattern.

Shortly thereafter, I happened to be scrolling through my Instagram feed (as one does) and a beautiful new yarn caught my eye, put out by Barrett Wool Co..  It was a pale pink Aran weight wool and I thought it would make a lovely colourwork sweater if I could find a nice grey yarn to contrast it.  On impulse I ordered five skeins of it and then had trouble finding a sweater pattern for which that was enough yardage, until I remembered the Sundottir!  The reason I didn’t first think of it was because I was really hankering after a cardigan and the Sundottir is a pullover.  Whatever, I’m still going to make it and it’s going to be fab.  Anyway, if I have the courage, I could always steek it!

Which brings me to my second colourwork project, also inspired by Kelly from the Celtic Cast On, the absolutely charming and well-named  Merriment cardigan. It’s sized for a baby or child, and it requires steeking, so I can learn that skill on a little sweater and then see whether I’d like to try it again for my own sweater.  For those of you not familiar with steeking, it’s the technique of knitting a sweater in the round (on a circular needle) and then cutting it down the center front to make it into a cardigan.  For obvious reasons, lots of people are nervous about the idea of cutting their knitting, and I’m no exception! However, I love the idea of avoiding all the purling that a stockinette stitch cardigan knitted flat requires, so I’m determined to give it a try.  Luckily, a friend of mine just had a baby, so I even have a recipient for the sweater.  Yay!  (This friend, Annie, has a knitting podcast with her husband, Alex,  called, “Knittingitup” and if you haven’t tried it, you should check it out, it’s sweet!)

My first “S.O.S” sock. Love the yarn, but not crazy about the heel.

On the sock front,  I’m halfway through making a pair for myself using the “Smooth Operator Socks” pattern by Susan B. Anderson.  I really wanted to try this pattern with its afterthought heel and cuff-down construction after listening to Tracie from the “Grocery Girls” podcast rave about it.  However, I’ve pretty much decided I prefer toe-up socks and will go back to that method once I’m done with this pair.  There is much to be said for toe-up socks, if you enjoy Judy’s Magic Cast-on (which I do), and you like knowing you’ll have enough yarn to finish the project (always nice!) Plus, I am not a huge fan of the afterthought heel.  It certainly is faster, once you get the hang of it, but I much prefer the look of a heel flap and I really enjoy knitting them, so back I go next time!  It’s okay, I love trying new things and until you try them, you never know, right?

Close-up of the Afterthought Heel. Notice the bump? Planning to do a better job on the second sock!

 

Process knitting vs product knitting

Here I am modelling my Vertices Unite Shawl

I’m finished my Vertices Unite Shawl!  So I guess I can get back to writing about knitting instead of actually knitting. I can’t express how much fun it was to knit this project and how much it satisfied something deep within me to let my heart choose the colours one after the other and see where they led. From “cast-on” to “bind-off”, I grew as a knitter. Does it sound overly dramatic to say that perhaps I learned something about myself? The biggest lesson I learned is to trust myself, at least when it comes to choosing colours. I loved the first section of the shawl but it was so bright I got scared and chose to stripe green and grey (two different shades of grey) for the second section. If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t choose those colours, but neither do I regret choosing them. They are a part of my shawl and they will always remind me to go with my gut, especially for a project like this; a fun, zany, devil-may-care romp. Why be practical? Why “tone it down” with grey? That’s what my head said to do, but I should have let my heart overrule my head. Anyway, as the project went on I got more and more excited about choosing the colours. I got a bit of advice on one colour from Naomi at my LYS, Espace Tricot (www.espacetricot.com) but the rest just spoke to me and I answered. Super fun! I highly recommend this shawl to anyone who wants a bit of fun in their knitting life. I’m leery of shawls in general because I hate really long rows of 300 stitches or more—just the idea gives me tendinitis. This pattern is constructed in such a way that there are never more than 223 stitches on your needles and that’s really only for a short period.  Also, who doesn’t love short rows??  And there are lots of them in this pattern.

The knitting enjoyment factor (KEF, from now on!) of this shawl was a 10/10, which brings me to an interesting concept I heard about on Instagram the other day.  Someone posted, “Are you a product knitter or a process knitter?”, in reference to a photo she posted about a project she was in the middle of.  I was intrigued by this notion that knitters might be one or the other.  In the four years since I restarted knitting, I’ve come to understand that time being a commodity in dwindling supply, I HAVE to enjoy the process as much as I expect to enjoy the product.  I’m ecstatic when I simply fall in love with a project and have no doubts about whether I’ll love making it and love wearing it. Sometimes, it’s not so clear, but I’m really going to avoid knitting things that don’t promise some fun.

This idea of loving the process makes gift knitting  a complicated notion.  When knitting for others do you pick a project you love with the colours you love and let the chips fall where they may? Then the item might just sit in a drawer for the rest of its life.  Complicated!  The fact is, I don’t love ALL knitting.  Sometimes, it’s been a chore and I don’t ever want it to be that.  After all, I do it for fun! It’s a very time consuming activity which can be tranquil, relaxing, stimulating and enjoyable…or just a slog.  It all depends on what I choose to knit.

Happy International Women’s Day to all you wonderfully creative women out there! Thank you for doing what you do.

Click the link below to listen to one of my musical idols, Abbie Conant, an extraordinary  trombonist and activist on behalf of women’s rights.  She also happens to have what I consider the ideal trombone sound.  Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/TV2sEOm3mBo

Sick bed delirium

Labyrinth on Gambier Island, BC. (In case you needed a bit of green in your life!)

So, I’ve been sick with the flu and its aftermath for two weeks. The only upside to this is that I’ve been able to sit on the couch and knit while watching knitting podcasts and Star Trek TNG, guilt-free. Therefore, I made great progress on my Vertices Unite shawl and finished a pair of Simple House Slippers during that time. Plus, I’ve started another pair of socks for the #sockbash2017 hosted by the Grocery Girls. Since I almost always have a pair of socks on the needles, this is no hardship.

When I was still quite sick and my cough was keeping me up during the night, I started writing a new blog post in my head, but naturally the next day I couldn’t remember the substance of the post, nor did I have the energy to put the words on the page, even if I had remembered them.
I have a tendency to write amazing prose in those circs, but somehow, once I’m actually typing, the words don’t flow quite as well. However, I’m still going to take a stab at remembering what I composed during my delirium last week.

I’m pretty sure I was thinking about designing knitwear and what kind of person does that sort of thing. Could I ever design knitwear? Are people divided between those who invent patterns, and those that will be forever following patterns designed by others? It reminds me of the way musicians are often divided between those who can play by ear, and/or improvise, and those (like me) who are dependant on written music. There are many who can do both, but I believe more are in one camp or the other.

When it comes to designing knits, I think I could eventually design a pattern, but I would need a lot more experience and expertise than I have now. When it comes to music, I have plenty of experience and expertise in reproducing music, but I still don’t have the inspiration or desire to write or improvise music. I’m hoping it’ll be different in the knitting world. Even now, I’m capable of “designing” a sock pattern, but it’s really a matter of using the toe from one pattern, the heel from another and choosing a lace pattern for the leg, also made up by someone else! That really isn’t my own design and I would never have the gall to charge money for such a thing. It’s more a kind of improvisation, since I’m using tools I’ve picked up from others, but combining them in a new way, much like jazz, I suppose. It gives me the hope that one day I may have the experience to create something I can claim as my own.

Talking about inventing something new, I’m fascinated by patterns that become incredibly popular for one reason or another. Take the one that has taken Ravelry by storm recently called the “Find Your Fade” shawl. This is a wonderful design, (starting with the name!) not so much because the actual design is so new or different, but because of how it inspires knitters to be creative.  It intrigues people to choose the colours that speak to them, and make their own very different versions of this shawl. Of course it’s intriguing to me and I have every intention of making one, one of these days. However, The Vertices Unite is allowing me the very same creativity in choosing colours that speak to me, some of which don’t really seem all that connected on the face of it. It’s been a wonderful experience making this shawl, and, now that I see the end in sight, I’m eager, but a little sorry to think of it being finished.

Next time I’ll show the end result of my work on my VU obsession!

 

Knitting mistakes as a metaphor for life

If only our creations were as perfect as this rose!

Can grappling with mistakes in your knitting help you to understand and cope with the more important ones you’ve made/are making in real life? Perhaps they can, if you allow those lessons to swarm up from your subconscious.

From the first day you embark on a new skill, like knitting, playing an instrument, or riding a bike, you make mistakes. As you become more proficient you make fewer mistakes, but mistakes will always happen, they’re called accidents—just ask my husband, who went ass-over-teakettle on his bike and broke his collarbone a few years ago.  It wasn’t because he’s not a proficient cyclist!  As a novice knitter, the mistakes seem huge and unmanageable, disheartening.  You think, “I have to go back and do that AGAIN??”  If you can get past that point, as in most disciplines, the mistakes become easier to manage.

As a musician, I’m used to these “accidents”  (brass players call them “cacks”), but I’m not sure that has helped me as a knitter.  Except when I remember the major difference between them: when I make a mistake in my knitting you don’t notice it from a great distance away!  As you become more proficient at knitting, the act of “tinking” (or going back, stitch by stitch) or “frogging” (think of “rip-it, rip-it, rip-it”) to get back to where the mistake is doesn’t seem as daunting.  As at least one of my lovely mentors at my LYS (local yarn store) has told me, “it’s all just knitting, and we love knitting, right?”

I’m learning  to assess the mistake: can I fix it without undoing my knitting? If not, can I live with the mistake? Some mistakes are purely aesthetic, some are structural, so that’s another assessment that has to be made. For example, if you drop a stitch there’s no choice, you must fix it or your knitting will unravel. A no-brainer, except figuring out how (and for that there’s YouTube!).   However, an aesthetic mistake can cause hours or days of philosphical soul-searching to resolve.

Let’s take an example from my own recent project called “Vertices Unite” by the aforementioned Stephen West.  This is a gigantic shawl (made more so by my looser-than-desirable stitch gauge!) and I’ve already made a couple of aesthetic mistakes. The trouble with this particular project is that undoing the knitting is not as straightforward as I’m used to because the pattern calls for you to slip the first stitch of each row and pick up stitches as you go to attach sections together…anyway, not very complicated except when you’re having to tink or frog back.  Then I find it hard.  For that reason, and because the rows are so long, I’ve decided for those particular mistakes I’m going to turn a blind eye.  Or, as my Mom used to say, “a man on a galloping horse would never notice!”  Of course it’s a bummer  that it’s not perfect, but isn’t that also a metaphor for life?  Sometimes you have to look at the big picture with your eyes a little squinted, and then it looks fine!

Happy knitting!

Hands up if you can spot my mistakes!

Colour Quandary

Here I am, modelling my zickzack scarf, in colours I love!

Since taking up the needles again just before Christmas, 2013, I’ve discovered a lot about myself and how I relate to colour. Choosing colour is a surprisingly emotional issue. When you’re about to commit to a knitting project, which will take many hours of work, choosing the “right” colour(s) becomes very important. I have been watching quite a few knitting podcasts on Youtube, (yes, for the uninitiated, there is such a thing!) and recently my very own LYS (local yarn store) has started one that I really love. It’s called Espace Tricot. (The store exists just two blocks from my house, so naturally I’m there at least once a week!) This week, the hosts, (Melissa and Lisa) talked a lot about colour and choosing the colours with which to knit their store samples vs choosing colours for themselves. . They talked about how most of their samples are knit with neutral colours such as grey, beige, brown, black or cream because they find that most people can imagine their preferred colours more easily when they see a sample made out of those neutrals. It’s been my experience that they’re absolutely right.  It was lucky that when they started the store, with no previous experience, they naturally knit in the colours they liked, which tended to be neutral!

Vertices Unite Shawl by Stephen West, in the early stages.

On the other hand, there are designers who have no such compunction. Take Stephen West, for example. An amazing, gifted and flamboyant designer of knitwear, he knits in any colours he likes, and although I have no evidence for my theory, I bet he isn’t worrying about whether they have broad appeal. When I first started looking at patterns on Ravelry, I stumbled across Stephen West’s patterns almost right away because he’s crazy popular, but when I looked at them I couldn’t get past most of his colour choices. It’s only when I started looking at people’s project pages that I fell in love with some of his patterns, because I saw them in “my” colours. That’s a good lesson to learn as you’re choosing patterns; if there is something about a design that you’re attracted to but you’re not sure, start sifting through the project pages and you’ll soon have a much better idea of whether you love the pattern and whether you’d knit it with enjoyment.

It’s common for people to get completely stuck when choosing colours and not be able to make a decision for lots of reasons. As an experienced knitter, you might feel badly that you always pick the same colours; if you’re a brand new knitter you might be overwhelmed by all the choices; if you really want to branch out, you might think, but will I ever wear it?; if you love bright colours, you might tell yourself they’re impractical. If you love neutrals you might be in the best position, because you’ll enjoy knitting the piece and you’ll likely wear it, because neutrals are easy to wear on the whole. However, if I were a neutral-loving person, I might diss myself for always choosing such dull colours! (No offence!) After going through these quandaries frequently over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short to knit something in a colour you don’t love. The hardest thing is to knit something for someone else in a colour you dislike. Then it’s a slog. That doesn’t mean I’ll never do that again; I probably will because I enjoy making things for people, and if they’ve chosen the colours, then they might actually wear the item!

As a young woman I went through a process called “getting my colours done”, a fad at the time (80’s). There were people (mostly women) who made their living by going to people’s houses with a pile of swatches of different colours and assessing what “season” people were. If you were a “winter” or “summer”, you were better in the cold colours, if you were a “spring” or “fall”, you were better in the warm colours, broadly speaking. ( I just googled this and it’s still very much a thing!) The day I had my colours done, whether it was the lighting in my house or the mood I was in, I found the process very uncomfortable and embarrassing, especially since, according to the colour lady, I was totally wrong when I guessed which ones looked better on me! When she put the black up and then the brown and said, which one? I chose brown, though I had no idea—I thought I looked hideous in both. Same with white and cream. Wrong, wrong, wrong. We got off to a rough start but when she got into the actual colours I finally started to see that the brights— the purples, pinks, blues and greens—were much better on me than the oranges, yellows, reds and browns. If this seems like a bogus proceeding, I understand, but it made a firm impression on me and I’ve always chosen colours in the cold palette since then and regretted it when I didn’t. I still can’t be 100% sure whether I love the cold colours now because the colour lady said I looked better in them, or because I actually love them from my soul, but the result is the same. When I see certain colours my heart soars, others leave me unmoved. (I have the same connection to certain flowers over others, which helps when I’m at the garden store!) Here’s an anecdote to demonstrate my pre-“season”-choosing self. I got married when I was twenty-three and chose a “going-away” outfit (gosh, this sounds so dated now!) in light brown and cream, I suspect with help from my friends, but that memory is hazy now. In retrospect, the main reason I chose that suit was because the lining was in a beautiful pale pink! No surprise that I rarely wore that outfit after my wedding day.

So, choosing colours can make you very happy, but it can also cause guilt, frustration, embarrassment, buyer’s remorse, and, saddest of all, waste, since the yarn will probably sit in your stash; or you’ll knit it up without joy and never wear the article. The most important thing is to enjoy the process of creation as much as possible and the colours you pick are a huge part of the equation. Now that I’m in my fifties I find myself more able to go with my gut without worrying (as much) what other people will think of my crazy choices, which is great, but I can’t help wishing I’d had more confidence to do that during my prime. Another example of youth being wasted on the young!

Happy knitting!

My Knitting obsession

Hi, Knitters, and those of you are visiting because you’ve subscribed to the old Tranquil Garde! I hope you’ll stay!

It’s been an interesting year or so of transition.  I put this site on hiatus, partly because my commitment to gardening had become a little thin, but also out of frustration with my computer, which is extremely slow and almost impossible to use for blogging or site-maintenance purposes. I haven’t bought a new computer, but I’m trying a new thing, posting and maintaining my site with my iPad.  So far, so good. I hope to keep it up, but posting pictures and videos might be challenging. We shall see. Without the creative outlet supplied by writing posts on this site, I started getting more and more into knitting.  I’m now officially obsessed.

It’s been about three years since I took up the craft after a 25 year hiatus.  I’ve learned that this is a familiar scenario.  Lots of people learn to knit as children or adolescents and then life becomes frantically busy and knitting (among other creative pursuits) goes by the wayside.  For myself, the  abandonment of knitting coincided with a new job I started with l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal in 1990.  The new job brought new stresses, some physical.  So, the pain and tension that I felt in my body (shoulders especially) from playing trombone a lot more than I was used to, seemed to be aggravated by knitting. I thought it behooved me to quit knitting, since quitting trombone wasn’t an option.  I soon forgot about knitting and didn’t think about it again until three years ago, when a young colleague of mine showed me a cowl she had knitted. It being close to Christmas it occurred to me that I could do the same thing and make a few Christmas presents.  Light bulb!  The few cowls I knitted that Christmas got me hooked again and I started to branch out to shawls, hats, mitts, garments, and later to socks.  I now love it all and spend some time each day knitting. And I’ve figured out ways of managing the inevitable aches and pains caused by both my main pursuits.

My husband, Dave, has accepted my obsession calmly and without criticism or question, for which I am very grateful.  There’s a part of me that nags me with the criticism “why are you spending so much time on this? Knitting is a frivolous (and expensive) hobby!”, so if he added his voice to that, I think I’d wilt and eventually give it up.  I don’t want to do that because there’s another voice saying quite strongly, “The beauty of the yarn, the challenge of the techniques, the start and end of projects you’ve planned and executed—these are all worthy!”  I meet knitters who are content to knit the same things over and over the same way, just varying the yarn.  I would die of boredom if I did that, but all the more power to them! We all knit for different reasons. I love that in knitting there is so much to learn! So many fabulous techniques, so many people out there designing amazing projects and above all, so many people who love knitting and who form such a welcoming community.  There’s an extraordinary lack of competition in this community, too. Far more support for each other than jealousy, at least that’s what I’ve found.  Perhaps crafters in general are like that, but having been a musician all my life, I’ve seen lots of competition and jealousy. It’s an inevitable part of the life, perhaps. But this is not a site about music, but about the joys of knitting (and gardening, beauty and philosophy!) I’m not saying the occasional side-note (get it??) about music might not creep in…

P.S. If you’d like to find me on Ravelry, my handle is osmviv, and is the same on Instagram and Twitter.

Hello from Away

imageActually, I haven’t been physically away much, only spiritually.  I have been in and out of the garden over the summer, but I have done little actual gardening.  Whenever I walk through I marvel at how things are doing without my active participation.  Things look a little overgrown and messy, but also wild and beautiful.  I am grateful to the wonderful plants who continue to thrive ( or not, depending) and I throw them kisses as I pass.  The only plants that have had consistent attention are the ones in the pots on my deck.  Without some water and food they would have died long since and we spend more time on our deck than in the garden, so…

I’m not sure how to explain my sudden lack of interest in gardening, and, even more puzzling, my lack of guilt.  Having made a decision to take a step back this year, I’m feeling quite free.  I’ve done the absolute minimum and it feels good.  I’ve come to realize that it’s only me that has been burdening myself with the obligation to create something magnificent out of the back forty.  I can just as easily decide not to continue to carry that burden.  Nobody gives a hoot one way or another.  The only real victims are  two rose bushes that are doing abysmally  due to my neglect.  It’s making me think they might have to be yanked.  I’m sorry they aren’t happy, but it appears they aren’t hardy enough to take it so they may have to be sacrificed.  Most of the rest of the crew are quite happy with the status quo.

Wait, a couple of other exceptions spring to mind.  The raspberries are doing very poorly.  Lack of water, compost and sun are the probably culprits.  If I really want to see results I’ll have to transplant them. (Probability? Zero).  The front garden’s victims are the Astilbe.  They need much more watering than they have received this year. They were probably a poor choice for that spot under the maple tree.  Next year I’ll think of some alternatives…maybe. Some of the hostas are looking a bit yellow around the edges but I’m pretty sure they’ll survive.  They probably needed a bit more actual watering and quite a bit less watering from the neighbourhood dogs.

All of a sudden October is here and that signals the end of the growing season.  I’m always sorry to see it go.  I hate facing all the closing up, shutting off, cutting back, bringing in, etc, etc.  It makes me very depressed as it signals another winter approaching,image and winters are hard around here, as you may know. There’s nothing for it, though.  Time takes no prisoners, has no compassion, waits for nothing.  Onward we go.  Let’s embrace the beautiful, cold sunny days ahead, under the brilliant blue sky that exists practically at no other time and place.  Before that we’ll embrace the beauty of the autumn colours.  We have much to be grateful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!

November Beauty

IMG_1746If the title of this post seems like an oxymoron to you, I’m not surprised.  I have a long(ish) and difficult relationship with the month of November.  It’s always seemed to me like the most depressing, grey, cold, lifeless month of the year.  On the other hand, my dear father, who died in 2011, was born on the 30th of this month, for which I always pitied him when I was a child.  He missed being born in the best month of the year (coincidentally, my birthday month) by just one day!  Even as I grew older, I thought having your birthday in November must be a big bummer. Every year I simply endured it until it was over and we could put up lights and start planning for Christmas.

This year something different happened.  I was walking my dog, Monty, down our street,  thinking about how dreary everything looked, when I spotted something I hadn’t noticed before; a slender birch tree with yellow leaves still attached, highlighted against the grey stone house behind it.  The waning mid-afternoon light hit that tree just right to set it off beautifully.  It suddenly struck me that despite all the grey, there might still be some beauty to be found in this awful month.  I feel the need of it particularly this year because of recent horrific events in Europe and the Middle-East, which I won’t describe since you’re all aware of them.  I decided to spend a similar afternoon, with the light waning just as it was that day, taking  pictures to record the beauty to be found if one looked hard enough.

Today, Mother Nature has given us another beautiful, sunny, windy day, with a hint of coming snow in the air and I’m trying to appreciate this pre-winter period instead of dwelling on its usual grey ugliness.  Yes, it’s the first thing I’ll always associate with November, but maybe from now on I’ll keep an eye out for traces of lingering beauty as well.