Wednesday, September 1, 2010


She is brightness
like her sister and
her brother both
they are incandescent
but not like a bulb
like the heat
that infuses a summer day
like the embers
on the hearth
like intuition
like empathy
like a light touch
like a star
visible from any place
on the globe

Lisa E. Paige
Copyright 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Salt water stings
our hot skin
as the bright
white light mellows
softening us until
we touch
unintended underwater
where silky seaweed
surprises us and
suggests we
to the forces of the moon

Copyright 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This is not a children's poem.

Sometimes we are
busy as a beaver
sneaky as a weasel
we have nine lives
like a cat
or deeply love
and depend on
our best friend
the dog.

Sometimes we have
a memory
like an elephant's
or we're shy
as a mouse
or roar
like a lion
when we should
bleat like a lamb.

This is not a children's poem.

Sometimes we're cougars
and our claws come out.

We so often follow
like sheep or
are pushed along
like cattle or
are more stubborn
than a mule or
act like an ass.

And that brings me
to the equine paradox:
there are more horses' asses in the world
than horses.

This is not a children's poem.

What of the badger?
The badger badgers.
And usually it works
at least for him.

More persuasive
than the snake
was Eve
or was Adam just
more easily turned?
Unlike women
(according to many men's analogies)
she didn't have to badger
or bitch.

This is not a children's poem.

Sometimes tautology
is the best we can do.
We are what we are
and it is what it is.
We're human so
we're simply not a butterfly
but don't we see that
we are as stunning and
have a butterfly's fragility
that steals the breath?
That we can --
if we wish to --
stop crawling and
(not without a chrysalis phase)
discover flight.

Believe me.
This is not a children's poem.
Children have not yet forgotten how to fly.

Copyright 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Dancing on coals
as red as frostbite
will ignite
the forgotten lessons
that formed
like ice particles
in our warm breath
that day
when we sang
by the church
joining hands
with the dark
and the empty
as we hungered
for comfort and heat
yet fumbling
with numb fingers
traded our
worn scarves
to strangers
for gratitude.

Copyright 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010


I told her
it's trite to say
that her heart is pierced
even if it feels
as real as a paring knife
on a peach.

But when she lifted her shirt
and eagerly said
it won't hurt -- do it quickly --
I'll just look away --
jewels fell like those
that had colored her fingertip
when she signed
a childish lasting pact
-- with a serious look --
then mingled her life with
that of her best friend.

It was through
in an instant
followed by
a captive ring
with a crimson droplet gem
a prism
reflecting the truth
of an eternal metaphor.

And she smiled with defiance.

Copyright 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unshu Mikan

Oranges under my skin
beg to be peeled
until I trickle
over your fingertips,
my pulp under your nails.

Better to juice me
than slice me in quarters,
although you already have me.

I don't mind being squeezed
until trust is sweet on your lips.

Did you know that satsuma
-- unshu mikan --
is a mutant from Japan?

It means honey citrus.
Tart and sugary, like me.

Copyright July 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Right here

Somewhere over the rainbow
(alto II part burned into my brain)
I sing about platinum shining
where leprechauns lurk
(those lying midget bastards)
and the pot of gold
on Wall Street
crumbled into dust
like the dying
(the ashes of whom
weeks later
dusted my shoes)
and yet I cannot
stop from singing
and the song rises
blue and gold and crimson
above a turret
above a spire
scraping the sky
like ivory
against the night
above 200 soaring voices
all knowing
that only fools
seek gold
instead of the rainbow
(yes a Ding an sich)
all the voices
are blinded by the hues
shining through clouds
and rain and hail
and blasting through
thick Gothic walls
in stained glass allegories
inflaming those who do believe
(in justice
in peace
in tolerance
in love
in ourselves
and in what we carry
in all that's spoken
all that's holy)

Copyright June 19, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010


by urban gusts
swept away
by undercurrents
by spray moorings
salted sparkles
in the granite
in the sand
neither tide
nor time
can be told

May 21-24, 2010 Rockport and Gloucester "These things take time," he said, and gazed beyond the sea. I'm never sure what he sees.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blind Drunk

Groping forward
her cane feeling
for the walkway
the bag she carries

Bud Ice rolls
into the street
as she cries out
in fear of a darkness
that can swallow
more than the colors
of the sun.

The bluest of skies
her backdrop
she curses,
kneels to grasp
the only savior
that she knows.

She doesn't want my help.

And anyway
I am loathe to gather up
another's poison.

It's only Bud.

Even a frothy
stein of Weissbier
sweetened by raspberry
tart with a lemon slice
isn't worth death.

Copyright 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Soaring on steel
I fly so close
to the sun
igniting hope
and then

To dust and ashes

Voids unfilled
by parting
or souls
shrink and vanish

Blinding rays
through bending crystal
scorch me

On bended knee
I pray

The sun sets
I'm alone
in the silky dusk
and peace floats in
on wings of gossamer

Hello, God.

Copyright 2011

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The below poem was inspired this morning by an incredibly brave person I know.

Today, I am a father;
Yesterday, I didn't believe in one.
Today, I soar on wings of gossamer;
Yesterday, I couldn't see my angel.
Today, I awaken in sunshine;
Yesterday, The rain fell on me alone.
Today, I dance in golden fields;
Yesterday, I cried despite the roses.

Today, I am a mother;
Yesterday, I held life inside me.
But I was not born.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Security Systems

Your reputation
falsely sullied
cannot destroy you,
because the world knows better

Your child's candy
eaten by an adult
is the gift of a lesson
to be learned

Rent not paid
does not have to have a cost,
as you have wealth

Betrayal of your trust
needlessly and selfishly done
cannot hurt you,
for you too would tell the truth if asked

Losing serenity
so carefully built
is not God's theft
but your own

Your karma
is your payment and
it covers all the bills

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Locks on your mind
Spiral stairs always
downward falling, falling
Dreaming tsunamis
drowning in the power
of an earthquake
Keys lost
Keys found
Muscles not used
throbbing with effort
tense with the climb
The top of the staircase
will never be reached
yet we ascend.

Monday, March 1, 2010


A rose is a rose is a rose until it becomes so red it spontaneously combusts, ignites like the outskirts of a sunset, flames with ecstacy emblazoned across the sky like that of a secret finally spoken, a door opened wide.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's 2010

Do not look
behind the curtain
but within where
if you can find God
you will also find
and your heart.

Share them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

when yes
or even maybe
your neck
hands that
were tangled slip apart
like knots coming undone
you slip away from your mooring

Monday, February 8, 2010


Even shadows
are more welcome
than silence.

In the enveloping
dark of 3 a.m.
the pulse of the living pauses.

Scattered are the leaves of
thought upon a frozen ground
of wonder and confusion. Snow itself freezes.

Oh the clawing of the cat
who thinks it's time
for canned food.

The whisper of her fur against my face.
The wound once again open.

Risk is courage, courage risk.
And the lover is the love.

Thank you Keats, and Yeats, and
oh sister, mother, lonely Emily,
who showed me that finite infinity
lives between words.

And yes, thank you those
who sat around the fire
spinning epic like a hooded cloak.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


The controlling metaphor
went on too long
like a scarf around the world
or a sweater with one sleeve
still in the basket.

See? I stretched it.
Then I gave it up.
It makes me look so uncommitted.

But to other things I am devoted.
Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies. Apple pie.

Every morning the cat expects
a bowl of canned food
before she dashes out the door
for just a minute.
Once she is fed she loses interest.


Thankful we are
that February is the shortest month
that of cold to which we have at last
become accustomed.

In heavy ice storms
the newest branches
snap as fragile as new love.

And inside February's roses
die as we clothe ourselves in wool.

But when snow falls
it blankets us until
we dream of promises,
of springtime.

By the river where I walk,
the winds are scathing.
At night they howl
like lonely wolves
who wake the children.

Despite the bleakness
we have not forgotten forsythia.

Let no day pass
unkissed into the night,
and no slumber silence
the diamonds in our eyes.

White out

MEMO To: Readers

From: Lisa

Date: 2/6/10

Re: Gratitude

Life is hard. I am grateful. Life is joyous. I am grateful. Life is sickness and death. I am grateful. If we try hard enough, we grow. I am grateful. Doing the next right thing can hurt. I am grateful. Doing the next right thing guarantees no like return. I am grateful. Giving love to others, though, brings love from everywhere. I am grateful. I try to love those who try. I am grateful. Good people love me. I am grateful. Good people trust me. I am grateful. Laughter eases me. I am grateful. I am giving. I am grateful. I am honest. I am grateful. I make mistakes. I am grateful. A huge February blizzard covers the gray of our world. I am grateful. The blinding white is a reminder of purity. I am grateful. I remember how to pray. I am grateful. Love, real love, can be killed. I am grateful. Love, real love, can be fed, nurtured, held. I am grateful. These things make up my life. I am grateful. Life is a place; meet me there. I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Warm me

I am still knitting scarves for kids who are cold. Kids for whom education is the great equalizer, their only hope in this capitalist democracy where the poor most often stay poor and the rich get richer ... and bailed out. I'm still knitting scarves for kids whose teachers are getting disheartened because of the political battle being fought over whether they're teaching their students to read or just sitting around on their asses being useless, letting their students fail. I was a teacher in a high school for three years. If someone told me that I wasn't teaching my students, I very well may have walked out of that school that day and never gone back. It was hard enough work without being discredited and insulted. Are their teachers out there who are burned out, or have simply given up, and are just collecting a paycheck until they can retire? Yes, of course there are. But they're not the rule, by any means, particularly in a school district where excellence has been stressed -- and demanded -- for nearly a decade. My heart goes out to teachers who, every day, dig down deep in their hearts to wrap warm scarves of knowledge and thought and caring around their students, warming them to their very hearts, hearts so easily broken. I can't stop knitting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The dark to my light

There is a kind of night
when the stars are
so bright
so aflame with the answers
to our doubts
that the moon is present
but goes unnoticed.

On this kind of night
if you look up
you will catch your breath
like a butterfly
in your hand
for you are caressing
the universe
for the first time.

There is a light
against the endless void
the ineffable dark infinity
against which I too burn.

Copyright 2010

I Don't Like Empty Shoes

Punctuated wingtips
perched on shag carpet.
Nothing feathery about them.
Heavier than granite they are
like the stone on my heart.
Worn as soft as kid.
 We could not let him go
in just his socks.

 Another pair cradled
in white tissue.
White leather as supple
as a petal with
blossoms painted
on the soles.
More than once
I forced them on her toes,
the little buds they were,
while she giggled.

In Advent,
German children lay out
empty shoes.
The younger ones
peer over window sills
with fabled hopes of
sparkling sugared satisfaction.
But the elder children
hunger for the contrast
of orange and
of chocolate.

 Copyright 2010

A break in the pattern

I need a break. I'm still finishing scarves created from left-over wool. They are colorful, whimsical, and quick to make. They make me happy. I'm working on a few rows of my life right now, instead, and it feels good. In the meantime, I am reworking a few poems from the past. Bear with me. I'll get back to more complex knitting in a week or so. The truth is, I don't like following patterns word-for-word.


I wrote the following poem years ago, feeling very distant from my origins. Now I feel my origins within, but having revised this poem, am sharing it. When did I start awakening in the night afloat on a black velvet pool of soothing self-pity? Companioned by dream lovers father mother sister in starched shirts and dresses in rooms long emptied and even destroyed. So many heartbeats in the night so many different patterned breaths like fingerprints upon my tender senses. All dwindles with the dawn. But the first light cannot fill the gaping cavern widening within its center large enough for swallowing the sun. Copyright December 1995


I think I was A good mother Yes, I say, yes you were -- the past tense ringing out like a minor chord. Her room is bare. A throw she crocheted is folded at the foot of her bed. A faded B&W photo of my sisters and me at an impossible age of innocence complements the standard-issue crucifix. I wheel her to the "activities" room where a rinky-dink upright stands humbly against the wall. Its keys are as cracked, yellowed, and spotted as my mother's hands. I play for her remembering scales I played by rote as she washed dishes after supper. How awful that I never understood why. When the last of the Schumann faded she brought her crippled hands together in some sort of approximation of applause. Her eyes -- still confused -- begged me for clarity. A moment of perfection with my mother will not happen now, I think. Or is this moment the one? Copyright 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


We all are. But how often do we look at our flaws with some specificity, the way we'd assess a finished sweater -- one sleeve too long, a cable imperfectly turned, baggy at the waist? When I have low blood sugars, the world looks dark, and I'm snippy. I have musical tourettes, which annoys many, and I don't care. I automatically assume that those who were born with silver spoons in their mouths aren't people I'd want as friends. I overestimate the selflessness of my generosity. I fail to fill the gas tank until I'm on fumes. Boredom irks the hell out of me. I'm restless. I don't suffer fools graciously. I eat ice cream right from the carton. I often forget to put out the trash on collection day. Although I am efficient, I procrastinate and am easily distracted. I bristle against those who assume any incompetence on my part, even if it's there. I'm an education snob. I don't vacuum frequently enough. I don't do home upkeep regularly, resulting in properties that look worse when I sell them than they did when I purchased them. I throw other people's things away. I drive so aggressively it can be dangerous. I text too much. I get obsessive about new pleasures. I don't always follow through, especially with resolutions to work out at the gym. I leave my dry-cleaning at the shop way too long. I can be very snide, and enjoy it. It takes me too long to confront my loved ones with issues we need to resolve. I lose myself in love. Sure, there are more. But for now, I feel purged, like a Russian Orthodox congregant confessing at the altar for all to hear. I don't believe in sin. But I do believe in flaws. The most beautiful handknit garments, filled with love, are most often slightly flawed somewhere or other, like Persian carpets, into which imperfections are woven. The value on these items is higher than those machine made. If only we were more certain of the beauty of imperfection when we were young.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ripping my heart out

I'm now three days behind on this blog and on my stated knitting goal (already!), and I still haven't gone out to purchase the yarn for a new project. But then, things have been a bit hectic, a bit disheartening, a bit dark. And not only in Haiti. For three years, I've worked with some of the most dedicated, ethical education experts imaginable. The Superintendent of Schools in Harrisburg, Dr. Gerald W. Kohn, aka Jerry, is known and recognized -- Superintendent of the Year 2009! -- for his energy, experience, and vision. He is relentless in trying to improve children's lives. He prides himself on stealing the best talent from other districts. They are good people. They do the next right thing, every time. But the forces-that-be conspire against the right thing to do. This nation is built on public education -- equal opportunity for all. But now, politicians want to mess with that, for reasons that are quite obvious. We've privatized the prison system, we're working on privatizing our national security, the military industrial complex has been private all along, and we tried the privatization of finance with such stunning results. The conservative among us seem to have no problem risking our children's futures. Gentle reader: Have you seen "Wicked"? I saw it with the original cast, thank you daughter Annie, who knew it was the musical to see. Anyway, it's so true that you'll hear me say it again and again and again: "No good deed goes unpunished." I once quoted "Defying Gravity" regarding a relationship lost, but now that I've grown, I know in my heart that it's not about that at all. It's about ethics.
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I'm
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!
In Port au Prince this week, through natural causes, thousands have died, thousands more will. So many children are left without homes. We couldn't really stop an earthquake. But an earthquake of our own making is about to shake our nation just as hard.
Do you know how many children right here in Harrisburg don't have homes, or food, or any hope other than what's provided right there in their public schools? Why are newly homeless Haitian children pictured on Page 1, above the fold, while our own are invisible?
Even the successful children in Harrisburg, like those who have benefitted from all the hard work of the colleagues I so admire, those who have applied themselves for 12 years and are doing brilliantly despite all the obstacles they face, are not above the fold.
Oh, I know why; I don't mean to be disingenuous. But it angers me, profoundly. It doesn't have to be this way.
My readership is small, and I'm most definitely preaching to the choir, but this I believe: each one of us can change the world. Please, each of you, hear my plea. We have to fight what is coming. It's as stealthy as our nation's high end bombs. It will hit its target unless we fight.
And is there no better metaphor than that of battle? I think there is.
We have to knit our own lives with those of these children. We are all of one fabric, Haitians, Harrisburgers, and all.
Nothing that happens in public education, a world where the endless labors of good people often go unrecognized except by the students who love them, should be about revenge, about self-interest.
But it seems sometimes to me that in this life, we knit rows and rows and rows of warmth, only to watch them get ripped out. Yet, we cannot stop knitting.

Time for a new project

For a six-foot-tall boy, a six-foot-long scarf. I run my fingers over it, rows and rows of memories. Peter pedaling his Big Wheel down the steep slope of the driveway, hanging a sharp right and then waiting for my okay to zoom across the busy street to head down Second Street toward the little school where he went to Kindergarten. Peter jamming on his saxophone, sliding across the stage with his guitar, hunched over the Steinway keyboard. Peter letting his pony-sized dog pull him down the street on his scooter. Peter in his infant seat, squinting up at the sun. Peter concentrating on a Lego project, after begging me to separate the pieces by color, which of course I would do. Peter in his headphones, slouched on the sofa, his laptop a constant. Peter shuffling off to walk the dog whose head is now only as high as Peter’s hip. Yards and yards of life. It’s when you think there’s nothing left that can surprise you that it happens. Pete now converses. He inquires about my day. He shares information about his. One night when he was an infant, his barking croupy cough awakened me. He was gasping for breath, and I sat with him for hours in the steamy bathroom. He clung to me, she who would hold him until the fever broke. These days, every day before school he hugs me and pats me on the back. He’s still nonverbal at that hour, but he takes the time to speak in other ways. I have to fight the urge to cling to him. When do men learn not to communicate? In my experience, men want to be left alone. My father was the first in my experience, of course. He’d disappear into the basement for what seemed like weeks, only appearing to eat and grimace. The pattern repeated. Don’t bother me when I’m cranky. Don’t pry when I’m stressed. Don’t talk at the dinner table. I labored to make sure that my son would know how to listen, and how to share. And yet I have feared for years that no matter how much I encouraged him to defy gender expectations, he’d succumb. And then, you meet someone who listens and asks questions that relate to what you’ve said – thoughtful questions. Someone who says that communication is essential. And you remember that your son writes poetry that becomes lyrics for his songs. Just when you think there’s nothing left that can surprise you, it happens. I guess I’m ready for a new project.

Counting stitches

There’s no knitting today. Instead, I dismantle the Christmas tree. Carefully, I wrap each precious ornament, some colorful glass, some cute little figures in wood, in tissue paper, and lay it gently into the storage box. The tree is more fragrant dry and dead than it was while soft and fresh. A human wouldn’t smell so good untended. Tearing the strings of lights off the stiffened branches isn’t easy, and I struggle hurriedly, because I’m due out for lunch in just 40 minutes. I realize that no matter what pleasure lies ahead, my compulsion to finish what I’m doing controls me. I have to get that last strand off, because after lunch, I won’t want to have this chore to face. Instead, I’ll want to bask. The neighborhood Italian deli is warm and bright. The roasted red pepper in my mortadella and mozzarella sandwich is sweet, like the moment. I am beginning to understand how different I have become. Counting stitches has reminded me how to attend to each moment. And this afternoon, each moment is something to etch into memory. I’m surrounded by quiet kindness. There is coffee, with raw sugar and thick froth that stays on my upper lip. There is the soft blue sleeve of a sweater that I cannot resist the urge to touch. And finally, there is the realization that for the first time since I turned sixteen, I am not saddened by the end of Christmas. The glorious season isn’t ending, but leading to the birth of every new day. Perhaps that is what the story means. Our uncertainty of what awaits us under that star is exactly what draws us forward. Pack up your gifts, and join the journey.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dropped a stitch

Technology and knitting. Each has its advantages. But in knitting, if I drop a stitch, it's my fault. Miscalculate the gauge, my fault. With technology, it's never my fault. I now have two blog posts on my laptop, not posted. The laptop refuses to connect to my wireless router. The battle I did with it on the weekend was so frustrating that I wanted to stab myself in the eyeball with the nearby knitting needle. Now that would have been my fault. I wrote those two entries, but now having processed the weekend more fully, they seem out of date, frail compared to the strength of what I am currently thinking. Monday comes and goes, and still no luck with the wireless connection. I'm on my son's iBook. But sometimes a lack of connectivity via wireless forces one to seek different types elsewhere. It started Friday. I was leaning my chin on my hands at my desk, the last one in the office other than the cleaning staff. The vacuum cleaner was approaching. I had had plans to meet a dear friend, but her in-laws had arrived unexpectedly, and she couldn't go out. Story of my life ... best laid plans. Everyone tells me to plan, but truly, my life is ruled by serendipity. Because that's what defined Friday night and the following weekend, and there is nothing I could have planned that would have improved what occurred. A new email appeared on my screen. Okay, no Karen, but instead an email. A sorry comfort, I thought, until I read its one line message, and became intrigued. Minutes later, I was on the telephone with this unknown person, discovering all that I had in common with someone I'd never met in person. He was looking for some information on a common project. And there I was, stumbling through a conversation in which we tripped into unexpected territories, learning that we are both Unitarians with liberal views -- as opposed to Unitarians with conservative views?? -- and a bit worn down by life that day. He'd had his plans cancelled, too. The next day, over lunch, we found out that we have the same color eyes, a passion for equity and justice, and the belief that gratuitous meanness should be punishable by law. All of this doesn't seem so extraordinary, perhaps. But what was happening? A new color was being introduced into the fabric of my life. On Sunday morning, I sat with the other members of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg choir, fondly called "The Unisingers," in the church we share with another congregation on the second Sunday of the month. This new practice is the effort of a mainly white congregation from an A-frame church just out of the city of Harrisburg to serve a less white neighborhood, a less privileged population, offering them dignity as well as charity. I had considered it folly. Barriers, I have learned through working at a school district that is 85% African American and 10% Latino, are not so easily broken, no matter how well-intentioned either party may be. How astonished I was to hear from a few speakers at the service that day that the second Saturday breakfasts are working very well. Hundreds are coming out to be served breakfast and get to know our congregation. Neighbors are welcoming us with open arms. Activists and social service people in the community are befriending us. Our minister had said that serving in this community would save no one but ourselves ... but I was seeing differently that morning. I saw that with every new contact made, more than two people were being saved. It would spread, just as surely as every successful connection made through my work has a ripple effect, as well. And next to me, my fellow second alto was weaving yellow into the blue of her sock. I've worked on cables, complicated patterns for suits that fit infants, turned the heel of a sock, built the thumb of a mitten. But I've never worked a color pattern. Megan said she could show me. I loved the alternating colors, knit together tightly. Leaving the church, I recognized my new friend standing at the door. He'd come to my Unitarian service instead of his. He'd heard the motivating speakers. The idea our congregation was making a reality, despite naysayers like myself, may now travel further. And the sparkling color in his eyes and my excitement to see him were blended with my gratitude for the spiritual experience I'd just had, and the additional moving blending of our voices with those of a Gospel group from the community. It was a multicolored morning. One of beauty, and joy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Tonight, I returned to singing. (I brought the seed-stitch scarf project along.) It felt great. My diaphragm expanded, making more room for my heart. I felt like the Grinch after seeing that the Whos wake up and join hands in a circle to sing the Faroo Daroo song (or whatever it's called) without any packages, boxes or bags. They may have no gifts, but they still have each other, and they still have their song. About seven years ago, my daughter Annie (who was then only 14) and I joined the choir at the Unitarian church we attend. We're both second altos, so we were able to sit together, blend our voices, and doodle on one another's music (oops, fellow Unisingers, you didn't read that). We'd giggle at the silly tenors and bases who were constantly wisecracking and acting out, as if they were teenagers. We'd yawn toward the end of the night and wonder when it would end ... and then burst into our second winds on the car home, loudly performing the parts we'd just learned, and tweaking them to suit our over-tired hysteria. But the memory I cherish the most is of hearing her sweet, haunting voice in my ear. After she left for college in the fall of 2006, I returned to choir alone. The chair beside me in the Alto II section was inhabited by someone else. I didn't stay with it long. I felt like I was sleepwalking through life that fall, except for the times that I awakened in the middle of the night, shaking with anxiety, terrified that I'd never get over the sudden and painful disappearance of my first child. I'd wanted her to go to the college of her choice, and she did, but damn it, it was 400 miles north, and such a good choice that she was absorbed by her new life and didn't really need to talk to me much at all. I left her room intact, and whenever I had the courage to enter it, the lingering scent of her brought me crashing onto her bed, wracked with a deep sense of loss even though she was alive and well and even thriving. It was only partly about Annie. It was also about the beginning of the end of that part of my life, when nothing else mattered when one of them had a fever, when waking them up was the first task of my day. When I ate what they liked. Even with my two younger children still with me, everything changed the day Annie packed her boxes and trunk into the back of her father's Acura and drove away. The yellow VW bug she'd driven for two years was in my driveway. Just looking at the empty, stationary representation of her quirky effusiveness made me feel like an empty walnut shell. So I find it ironic that four years later, having pulled myself through years of alternating depression and manic self-distraction, intentional change and growth and the accompanying abandonment of delusion, now that I am finally enjoying the transition into the next phase of life, and anticipating with enthusiasm the impending freedom after Child 2 and Child 3 go to college, I've been told it's time to rehash every miserable experience of my life. I've been in more therapy than hippos have been in mud. I've been put on more different antidepressants than Baskin Robbins has flavors. Some of this therapy and medication worked, but I didn't really start feeling myself (a person I'd not seen since I was about 18) until last summer, the last summer of the first decade of the 21st Century, when I made a huge decision -- never to drink another alcoholic beverage again. Doctors and psychiatrists tell you not to drink with the meds, and it's right on the pill bottles. But hey, who takes that seriously, right? A glass of red wine a day actually helps women live longer. I don't remember reading anywhere that the occasional night out drinking martinis, then wine, then kahlua is supposed to extend one's life. But it sure made it easy to forget that the empty nest was just around the corner. Until the next morning, that is. So, now well into this exercise, and happier than I can remember ever having been, on the advice of other determined nondrinkers, I've been told to "do an inventory" -- that is, confront my defects, resentments, and general mishegas through writing a long rumination on the moments of my life that have contributed to my current despair, anger, fear, and hate ... wait a minute, am I in Star Wars? I'm supposed to start with my earliest memory, and trace back through my entire life looking for memories that still make me cringe. I'm a writer. I go into detail. I don't have enough years left for this. I'm almost finished with the scarf. It's deliciously black, and nubby, and soft. I often feel let down at the end of a project, as is common when I finish reading a long, gripping novel. Perhaps that's why I didn't used to finish my knitting projects, but keep them around, always having them somewhere in a basket like a puppy never grown into a dog. Nothing stays the same, right? And nothing ever changes the way you think it will ... When I enthusiastically ordered my first drink ever, a Tanqueray and tonic (how sophisticated, I'd thought) to celebrate my "coming of age," I wanted everything to be different ... right then! I wanted all the freedom that comes with being an adult. And instead, I took the first sip, and my very first step toward becoming enslaved. We knew so little as teenagers, and so many of us still don't admit what we don't know, today. I hereby openly admit: I've been a knitwit, fumbling through life. But not anymore. Bring it on, rotten memories. I'm ready. I'm going to condense you, dehydrate you, and brush your dust off my life. I went out tonight, and I refound my voice. And you know what's amazing? It sounds a lot like Annie's. Binding off.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scarf of Gold

Disclaimer. Moving into a new mode called "Speed Writing," akin to Speed Chess, or Speed Knitting, in which one uses size 15 needles and bulky wool, guaranteeing a finished product in about three hours. Sometimes they tend toward the gargantuan, like the mock turtle I made Annie last year that is too big to pack in a reasonably sized suitcase and still allow for other garments, but the satisfaction, the satisfaction. I tend to edit myself too much, which can carry these blog entries into the wee hours, and make me dysfunctional the next morning when I'm at my day job, which pays the mortgage. Can't be doing that. Irresponsible. So, I'm trying this out. My perfectionist nature is screaming in pain, but c'es la vie. And now that brings us to the topic below, which is written with as many nonsequitor paragraphs as the writing it disparages. I guess that could be considered ironic, or just plain bad rhetoric. Tonight: Grateful for a warm home, complete with a roof and a sofa. Doesn't hurt that my daughter has let me use her laptop, as mine refused to connect through the new router. I've had to wheedle. Meanwhile, while she was using it, cuddled into her own sofa corner with a blanket, my occupation was ... knit two, purl two. The scarf grows, the seed stitch remains metaphoric of this blog. I can see both. When I write, the letters pile up in crazy-assed lines, and, if I put them here, you can read them. The miracle of the Interwebs. We can put our insanity and meandering thoughts out here for all to observe, and to grow by. This activity is what I do today, but it's of course informed by experiences I once regretted or considered a waste of time. Since, I've learned that no experience should be regarded as so. Except, perhaps, avoidance and/or addictive over-indulgence in the self-seeking search for happiness that cannot be reached that way. But even missing out can teach you to wake up and live more fully, if you let it. For a long time, I regretted missing my chance to enter academia via the tenure track. But if I had, would I be writing this perspicacious, perceptive prattle on here? Between rows of the scarf du jour? The world would be so much worse off, right? Tell me yes. Comment, for the love of God, comment! But I know this much: If I were still writing the way I wrote in graduate school, you'd have stopped reading long before getting to this paragraph. I was in graduate school during the time of the fairy tale: in fairy tales, nothing is real. In addition to the happily-married-based-on-the-illusion-of-security-born-from-another fictive narrative, here's the fairy tale in which I then lived: Once upon a time, in a land across the sea, there was a King of Theory. Like most of that written in French, his work was -- and is -- incomprehensible, even when carefully translated. I know what you're thinking: It's gotta be one of those lost in translation things, right? Right? Hmmm. Maybe. Here's a brief sample, from Grammatology: The science of writing should therefore look for its object at the roots of scientificity. The history of writing should turn back toward the origin of historicity. A science of the possibility of science? A science of science which would no longer have the form of logic but that of grammatics? A history of the possibility of history which would no longer be an archaeology, a philosophy of history or a history of philosophy? And so, for years, little girls got lost in these words. We were little girls, avoiding ourselves, playing with words as if they were Legos, rearranging them endlessly. We were as imprisoned, charged with weaving straw into gold, even though we knew the weird little man's name. We tipped our heads slightly to the right, adopted a thoughtful expression, stuck our pencils behind our ears, and tried to pretend that words are only differance. That's French for ... you guessed it ... difference ... of course loaded with more meaning, even though Derrida would argue that there isn't any meaning at all ... except of course in his writing? I mean, a bit paradoxical, no? I never fully believed this fairy tale, but perhaps because I'd succumbed to the very depressing fallacy that Derrida was -- in the no meaning exists part -- right. I found lots of solace -- or so I thought -- in a number of other fairy tales, too, including escape. Escape from life into the heady world of literary criticism and theory, where nothing can hurt as much as reality can. But since then, I've fallen into the very gritty reality of a different kind of work, the do-gooder type, the windmill-tilting, change the culture, save-my-corner-of-the-world type. Even if just one bit at a time. And I've learned that the aphorism "no good deed goes unpunished" is one of the truest. This morning, in the midst of being told that my colleagues and I were lazy-assed disorganized time-wasters with little sense of urgency, I was faced with what I would have once seen as two options: fight or flight, two words defined only by their difference from one another. The always already. But there is a third option I have been learning in another type of school lately; a third option that one takes step by step, inch by inch, stitch by stitch. Picture the row growing, the weaving of the love that is a handmade scarf. I practiced it. I smiled, pulling joy from my promise to bring joy to others, to tolerate difference/differance. And the patience came. My moment of imbalance passed. I spun joy, and thus meaning, and suddenly that straw became gold.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Reign of Terror

It must be significant that the more I've been knitting, the more I've been thinking about Dickens. Despite having read his entire ouevre for my doctoral exams -- yes, even Bleak House and Little Dorrit -- I never knew that Madame Defarge was what was considered a "tricoteuse."
According to our time's ultimate source of knowledge, Wikipedia, "tricoteuse literally translates from the French as a (female) knitter. The term is used to refer to the old women who used to sit around the guillotine knitting during the Reign of Terror in France in the 18th century. Decisions on executions had to be made in public so these women were paid to be in attendance and give their opinion. During the Reign of Terror the opinions were rarely anything but 'off with his head.' In Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities, the character Madame Defarge is a relentless and bloodthirsty tricoteuse ..." Feel free to click on any of those links and end up on Wikipedia, even though doing so may mean you never return to my blog. Perhaps I can figure out a way to get my blog on Wikipedia? Things did not end well for Madame Defarge. The hubris she had to judge and condemn others, even if it was a kinda popular thing to do, participating in the Revolution and quashing the power of the ruling class and all, came back and bit her on her derriere. She was completely unforgiving, and with a vengeance went after the descendants of the Evremonde family, who had, a generation before, wronged her family. She's a tricky one, that Defarge. She knits into her work the names of those she wants to ... and eventually does ... see die. Dickens modeled her on the Fates, who used to measure the lifespan of a human being in a string of yarn. When they wanted to end that life, they would sever the fibers. So very many kinds of friction have frayed the yarn that is my life -- most of which I had a large part in causing. Of course, friction comes in fits and starts, and lately, it's in a fit phase, the kind of time in which the amount of good you do, the quantity of truth or joy you spread, or the volume of love you share, is irrelevant. The Fates will do as they see best. It is the best of times, the worst of times. The best of times in which I have found so many ways to be kind. The worst of times in the ways I am repaid. The best of times, in which there is always another skein. The worst of times, in which I knit feverishly, to reach the next skein, because its fibers have not yet been compromised. Today, a small but memorable moment of my childhood came into mind -- a moment that I've since tried to convince myself made me as nobly intended as Robin Hood. But in fact, that was not the case at all. In fact, it was born of selfishness, and dissatisfaction with my basketful of yarn. You see, I was one of the several children in my second grade who didn't have a new box of crayons. In those days, we had to bring our crayons from home, and because my parents impressed upon my sisters the importance of keeping their things nice, I inherited a box of half-used crayons that had a most disappointing broken magenta, my favorite color. I didn't have any money of my own to buy a new box, and back then, we couldn't -- and didn't -- expect anyone else to provide them for us. I couldn't ask my mother for a new box, because that would be adlmitting that I was ashamed by the perfectly fine box I had. Anyway, there I was one day strolling a few paces behind my mother, who was searching through our local Five And Ten for notepaper. Cleverly, I let the space between us lengthen until I found it safe to lift what I saw as a beautiful, perfect, untouched-by-human-hands box of crayons and put it in my pocket. Immediately, the guilt descended. I was Catholic then, after all. Once home, I carefully stashed the box in my red plaid book satchel, and before we pulled out our brown bag lunches the following day, I retrieved the box and gave it to the little girl at the desk next to me who also didn't have a new box. In fact, she had no box at all. Her toothy grin was like a pardon. It may have been the first time in my life that I felt relief. But not enough to erase what I'd done. Prepare now for a mangled blend of metaphor: Only now do I realize that every step I've ever taken outside my box of perfectly fine crayons has frayed my yarn. Look around. There are so many kids without any crayons at all. We who had even an imperfect box were born lucky. But that imperfect box is enough to make us suspect now, to nudge our necks ever more closely to the guillotine's blade. Our names are written in society's fabric as those who have, as the descendants of those who oppressed the rest. I don't know what the answer is. Capitalism is as imperfect as any other system, and intrinsically demands that a poorer class exist. But since that early lesson, I strove to get, the honest, capitalist way, a nice new magenta crayon -- not only for me, but also for the little kids without one. And now I'm angry that I'm judged for that. A do-gooder who sees the have-nots as the lesser-thans. So, to find peace, and patience, and acceptance, I pick up my size 5 1/2 plastic needles and my black Paton Shetland Chunky acrylic/wool, and seed stitch another couple of rows on the winter scarf meant for my son. I know this entry sounds pious and self-serving. That's the problem with humility. As soon as you find some, you're proud of having done so. Repeat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Space Suits

I once knit a pair of socks, one of which would have fit Frankenstein, and the other Bilbo Baggins. I'm thinking the product was affected by my state of mind, especially as everything I knit while pregnant came out properly shaped, with tricky cables or delicate contrasting zigzags. Funny how we glow when we're pregnant, but never attribute that radiance to the fact that we're not smoking and boozing. Of course this theory doesn't explain why our hair falls out post-partum, but I'm working on it.

In December alone, I created four gifts for family and friends through this new industriousness, and miraculously finished a project for my second child that I'd started for my firstborn. No matter how you look at it, this hobby is better than most of the others I have acquired over the years. I have yet to figure out how to play a Brahms Rhapsodie while twisting a cable, but my children assure me that's a good thing.

So whom should I honor with this daily blog, to whom I would happily dedicate 2010, a year I once thought would find us flying around in pods wearing jumpsuits made of Kevlar and shiny astronaut fashion? Shall research it tonight. Hell, maybe I'll design a signature hand-knit space suit. As I see it, I've found contented and chaos-free row-by-row living. Let's see what the recipients of my fine creations have to say to all that. And let's see what knit one, purl one living brings in practice.

I swear, like a new mother breastfeeding in a public place, I am not embarking on this madness just to needle you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter to spring

Days pass
like unwrapped gifts
or delicate negligees
kept in the drawer

The year turns with songs
we do not understand
and candles never lit

What of sitting silently
inhaling the fragrance
of a dark pine

Feeling the pungent
needle carpet
softened by time

Seeing through narrowed eyes
the filtered glow
through the branches and
tasting the whisper
of each other's breath