Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stitching

I started out my Thanksgiving weekend a little bummed out, because I had originally planned to visit with family on Thursday, and then fly the coop for the weekend.  Along about Wednesday, I had to face the fact that flying to coop wasn't going to be an option: I was grounded for the weekend.

After grumbling mightily, complaining to my cats, and flinging myself on the couch in various attitudes of anguish, anger, or despair, I decided to make a virtue of necessity.  Because after all, I'd still be able to go away next weekend, so it wasn't like it was all a total loss.

Several weeks ago, I read Anne Lamott's new book, Stitches.  In it, she claims, "We live stitch by stitch, when we're lucky.  If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching."

So I decided to spend the weekend living stitch by stich: instead of worrying about what hadn't come to pass, I'd just work my way through it, little by little, and savor what the weekend had to offer.

I got through a pile of grading; still a small stack left to go, but... it's manageable.  

I decided this was a perfect time to get all the little odds and ends of cleaning done that I never have time to do when I'm working, so now I have that odd sense of self-respect and satisfaction that comes from knowing, "My space is clean and neat and organized.  I'm ready."

I cooked.  Not for Thanksgiving (thankfully, because that's stressful), but in the aftermath.  I'm making beef stew and lemon yogurt cake.  I took a walk (to offset the cake), and I ran errands on Saturday morning before all the crazy shoppers took to the streets and made shopping a living hell.

Really, people.   Is any of it worth that kind of emotional investment?

Speaking of which, I did a bunch of knitting.  I made pairs of fingerless mitts for my best friend's little people a few weeks ago, and I had the yarn so I decided, "What the hell..." and I made a pair for myself.  This was a huge step for me, psychologically, because I love mittens and I used to be somewhat vehemently opposed to the idea of "fingerless mitts."

I felt that they were a nonsensical (and pretentious) phenomenon, because mittens by definition don't have fingers, and really, from a knitter's perspective these are simply "unfinished" mittens.  Which makes them actually quite easy to knit, thank you very much.

So here tis.  I'm posting a picture of the finished one--I haven't finished knitting the thumb on the second one. I haven't blocked them yet.  And the picture is crappy, as my pictures so often are, so it doesn't do justice to how pretty the yarn itself is: it's a handpainted merino.


I decided these will come in handy on the chilly mornings when I have to drive, because my car is always parked outside, and gloves on a steering wheel... not so much.

I also read up a storm.  I'm teaching Susanna Kaysen's Girl Interrupted (1991), which I much prefer over the movie version.  I also started an interesting book by Primo Levi, called The Periodic Table (1975). The basic concept is, Levi (who was a chemist) used the Periodic Table as an organizing framework for telling episodes of his autobiography in the years leading up to his imprisonment in Auschwitz.

A couple of the tales are actually fictional--stories that he wrote during the period of life that he is describing.  In 2006, Levi's The Periodic Table was named the Best Science Book of All Time by the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

It's a fascinating concept, linking the material of one's life to the elemental structure of the universe.  And at times, Levi's prose is quite beautiful.  For example, the story "Iron" describes Levi's hiking expeditions with his friend, Sandro, who was eventually killed "with a tommygun burst in the back of the neck by a monstrous child-executioner, one of those wretched murderers of fifteen whom Mussolini's Republic of Salo recruited in the reformatories" (48).

The story, "Zinc," describes how Levi got up the nerve to talk to a girl in his chemistry class.

I've also used the weekend to make some headway on my writing: it's been an incredibly productive year for me.  I currently have 4 articles circulating, 2 of which I co-wrote.  One of the co-written articles has been accepted for publication, and we're waiting to hear about the second.

Meanwhile, I decided to recirculate an article that received a "revise and resubmit" recommendation several years ago.  I've been meaning to "revise and resubmit" it, but I just haven't had the time and at this point, the momentum has passed, so I decided to just send it elsewhere.

The last of the articles I've sent out this year has also received a "revise and resubmit," but with a generally positive review.  So I've been working on that, and feeling good about how it's shaping up.

And the beauty of all of this is, the more stitching I accomplish now, the better the big picture looks for next weekend.  And for that, I'm truly thankful.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."