Lately when I plug in my camera to upload photos, I’m never sure what I’ll find. The Sweet Pea has been co-opting the family camera quite frequently, so that there may be 48 photos of a slice of pizza, or 188 photos of an adorable squishy baby, or (in this most recent case) about 20 of a stunning sunrise.
“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life? Is that good news, bad news, or both?…The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to.”
Anne Lamott, Stitches
I cast-on during a weekend trip to a local hot springs with the Sweetie Pie. I sat in our cabin at the rough-hewn log dining table, watched the sheep in the pasture outside the window, and counted stitches. I sipped hot tea and the baby slept in his swing.
I knitted the entire body on our drive home, the tires spinning and the wiper blades icing over as we crossed the Continental Divide. I averted my eyes from the cars skidding wildly off the road, focused on the endless rows of stockinette and repeated to myself “Just keep knitting, just keep knitting….” The baby snuggled deep in his carseat under a mound of blankets, and obligingly slept away the storm.
At home, I stumbled over the sleeves, which required some focus and counting of stitches. Between the bustling household and the baby that needs so much cuddling and holding, I had to knit, and unknit, and knit again in short ten minute sessions.
I picked up season one of The Paradise from the library. The baby kicked his legs next to me on the couch as I breezed through the yoke of owls and we watched love and commerce in Dickensian England unfold on my laptop.
As I completed the short rows and ribbed collar, I held my breath. I prayed my yarn would multiply like loaves and fishes. And when I cast off there was only six inches of yarn to spare. I snipped it off and put it into the baby’s chubby fist. He looked at it quizzically, and then tried to shove it (along with his entire fist) into his mouth.
I put the baby down for a nap and spent a blissful hour sorting through Great-Aunt Virgie’s tin of vintage buttons. Fingering my way through the contents, I found the most. perfect. pair to make two little owl eyes. I sewed them on, stopping only twice to put the baby back to sleep.
And now, I watch the snow fall quietly out the window, show the baby his new sweater, lay it on top of him and try to picture him wearing it a year from now. He kicks his feet enthusiastically. My mother’s intuition tells me he approves of it. I fold it gently and tuck it away for next winter, when we’ll bring out the sweater and all the memories that have been knit into it.
** Pattern and yarn details are found on my Ravelry page, here
A garden in winter has always occupied a soft spot in my heart. Probably because I feel like it is so often a reflection of my art. Such potential! Such stirrings beneath the surface! So much happening in secret places where no one can see.
Currently I sit with my artwork in a season of what can only be called winter rest. My writing, my photos, my weaving, my knitting, my stitching, my cooking….all of my offerings sit quietly biding their time until the next spring. It is difficult to string together the simplest sentence after months of interrupted sleep, let alone a weaving rich with allegorical meaning and significance, or a thoughtfully executed Paleo Thanksgiving dinner for my whole family to sit down to together (neither of which, by the way, has gotten much more than a tender glance from me this entire year).
Last week was unusually warm in our little nook of the Rocky Mountains. The kids were running around in short-sleeves with flip flops. They did not want chili for dinner. They went Christmas caroling without their coats. I had worked hard to get the Pumpkin down for a nap in his crib and debated what to do with my hour of two hands and my entire body to myself. I went to the garden.
I mowed the grass that had grown slowly long and matted by previous snow storms. The baby still slept. I swept the patio and drew out the dead leaves from the corners. I pulled the plants, long since bitten by the frost, out of the pots. He slept on.
I ventured down pea gravel paths farther from the house. I pulled the poppies that flopped dishearteningly over the borders. I swept off the Adirondack chairs and plumped up the cushions. I sculpted beds of seed heads into inviting displays of winter interest. And finally, I grabbed the broom and swept the dead leaves from the pea gravel. And still, the baby slept.
The Sweet Pea said, “This looks like something from Martha Stewart!” and the Peanut said, “We should have a garden party!”
I think about these things as I sit on newly-plumped cushions on a newly-swept patio waiting for the baby to wake up. Because it seems so ridiculous that anything in my yard could look like Martha Stewart, or that anyone should even consider a garden party in my garden–especially in December. I am a sour-faced grown-up, grown too practical with age. I am the elderly neighbor frowning and sighing as I rake up leaves that have fallen from the neighbor’s tree onto the wrong side of the property line. I have swept and sculpted and mowed and pulled, but to what end? Has it all been to simply tidy up and look presentable? Surely not.
Then the thought of the long winter of my art comes to mind, and I know what I’ve been doing. I’ve been nurturing, exploring, uncovering whatever it is that happens to gardens, to artwork, in winter. I know that a winter garden is not dead, but merely a garden at rest. I know there is still beauty, that it still speaks, and I know it is still worth caring for. But it took a couple of comments from my daughters to show me that it’s more than that. It’s also worth celebrating.
They found beauty and joy, celebration and delight where I found mediocrity. “It’ll do until something prettier comes along in the spring,” were my thoughts. But they saw the pages of Martha Stewart and parties. There’s something here that I need to learn. About joy, and happiness, and contentment with what is, rather than anticipating something “better” that’s coming.
The baby wakes up. My time for pondering in analytical awareness is over. I mentally dig a hole for these thoughts in my winter garden, cover them tenderly and leave them to their winter’s rest.
The Peanut tries really hard to match her big brothers and sister tit for tat. Lately, she’s been struggling to keep up with the joke-telling. Here’s a recent example:
Peanut: What did the pig say to the laundry basket?
Sweetie Pie: Um….I have no idea. What?
Peanut: “You snore!” (pause for effect) Do you get it??
We didn’t, but we still thought it was funny.
But I was so impressed by the Bean’s creativity and hard work that I had to share it anyway. The work is entirely his own, except for a few rubber bands that I provided from the junk drawer.
As if the miracle of being born the first time into an earthly family wasn’t enough, there is the miracle of the invitation to be born a second time into God’s family. Generally speaking, our priest doesn’t “dunk” for baptisms, but his liberal hand with the water could hardly be called “sprinkling”. We like to think of our kiddos as being “dunkled” into the body of Christ.
I’ve always wished that I’d hand-crafted some gorgeous baptismal gown with hand-smocking and crocheted lace, but I just always seem to prefer to make things that get more use than once in a lifetime. Still, I managed to make a onesie for the occasion.
And in spite of the unfortunate lighting situation, I had to share this last photo because the Pumpkin looks so pleased to be celebrating his new extended-family.
Remember Freddy Fox? The Pumpkin seems to like him, too.
It’s my opinion that if you are a newly minted babe making your way in the world, you’ll be greatly helped (or at least entertained) by having some older siblings around. They can be relied upon to provide you with all of the necessary petting, kissing, and snuggling.
And they’ll be the first to introduce you to things you are too young to accomplish on your own, and that your Mama and Papa would, in their wisdom and maturity, not attempt to teach you. Like hanging over the back of the couch:
And you can count on them to share things with you that are way beyond your age and development, but are still fascinating even if you don’t understand them. Like books by Alexander Dumas.
Yes, the Pumpkin’s life would be pretty boring if it wasn’t for his siblings. Then again, if it wasn’t for his siblings he might be able to finish a nap. Ah well. No loss without some gain.
Some time ago I was clicking my way through blog-land and found this pithy quote from a knowing dad:
“Parenting a newborn is like playing Uno with a five-year-old. As soon as you start to think you’re winning, the rules change.”
I had just figured out a workable sleeping arrangement for the Pumpkin and me (not to mention the Sweetie Pie husband who had been ending up on the couch night after night) when the Pumpkin decided to change the rules. Since the Pumpkin is my fifth newborn and I have some experience behind me, I know that this rule-changing can cause great bitterness, strife, and resentment in me.
How to keep yourself from becoming uselessly angry at your sweet baby? Sing a song that reminds you what a privilege it is to have him in your arms. I find myself singing the song below repeatedly as I nurse and rock and sway and bounce away the hours through the sleepless nights. You can click below to hear it, just pretend you’re rocking a warm, squishy baby and not being sold on the idea of a “wholesome” artificial beverage.