Cabin fever

Cabin fever in the summer just seems wrong. Coming from cold places with what it’s fair to call dreadful weather, I’m conditioned to expect cabin fever in the winter. There’s a logic in it that makes sense to me – the cold, wet, ice, and snow,  the short dreary days – they drive you inside, where you do what you can to create light in the darkness, and heat in the dark, to foster the illusion that you didn’t really want to go outside anyway.

But cabin fever in the desert (at least, my desert) comes in the summer, because it is simply much too hot to go outside. You spend your time going from one artificial climate to the next, trying to avoid contact with the outside world at all costs. Even walking out into the dark of night is like walking into an oven, which seems very odd when you’re used to thinking of the shade as cool. Your skin isn’t burning from the sun and you keep thinking you should feel cooler, but you just really don’t.

And the worst is that this is the time of year when I expect to be able to go outside. Summer is vacation and a break from school and relaxed schedules and picnics and swimming and hiking and biking. It’s freedom in a way that winter, in a cold climate, is not – the freedom of long days and golden twilights extending the time you can spend in all your summer pursuits.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the freedom of summer is illusory in many other places, too. Massachusetts and Minnesota can both get ridiculously humid (not helped by a dearth of AC, either because buildings were too old and never retrofitted, or cheap bastards figured AC wasn’t worth it for the three to five weeks it was truly necessary), which leads to MOSQUITOS. There’s nothing like collecting 32 bites to your ankles while waiting in line at the outdoor ice-cream stand to convince you that summer is actually kind of a pain.

But the northeast and Midwest still fit that glossy magazine ideal of summer better than the desert, which is winter cabin fever turned on its head. (And don’t get me started on how the bugs here can be worse.)

Which is all a long drawn-out way of saying that the summer is making me a bit nutty, which may be why this:

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Has now turned into this:

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And I swear that when I sat down to write this, I didn’t even realize my last post was about (potentially) ripping things back, too. For some reason it’s clearly on my mind these days.

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New neighbors

A new couple has moved in to the arroyo across the street from our apartment.

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I keep seeing them when I’m out with my iPhone, but someday I’ll have to stalk them with my telephoto lens, in the hopes of getting a better picture.

They look like young creatures to me – full grown but not quite filled out, with that semi-adolescent lankiness. But then, maybe all coyotes look like that. These are certainly the first ones I’ve got this close to. And they seem at home in the arroyo – this is my fourth sighting in probably as many weeks.

They’re lovely graceful creatures, with their low loping stride, slipping into the invisibility of the long grass and sand that lines the arroyo at a moment’s notice. They worry me, though – the arroyo is in the middle of a city (admittedly not a massive one), surrounded by homes and a semi-industrial/warehouse patch. The coyotes probably shouldn’t be as at home here as they are, if they want to stay here.

I’m told that the arroyo was fixed up by the Department of the Interior not long before we moved here – it used to flood every monsoon season, so it got graded and drained and whatever else you do to arroyos that flood. Apparently it used to be much wilder and overgrown, and home to much more wildlife. I’ve seen javelinas out here (but only once), tons and tons of birds, lots of little lizards, and once a bearded dragon-type creature. But these are the first coyotes I’ve seen.

Interior also built a nice walking path around the arroyo, with landscaping making it all pretty, and a huge draw for the neighborhood. There are people I regularly see walking the path in the morning when I go to work, and in the evening when I walk myself. I’ve learned to recognize people by their dogs. I’m sure the coyotes aren’t going to mess with the largest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen who lives a few blocks away (he’s like the size of a Newfoundland), but there’s a yippy Shih-Tzu that regularly slips its leash, and lots and lots of cats that roam free.

There’s also a bike park, with human-built obstacles, like a skateboard park but for BMX bikes. That’s where the coyotes are in the picture above. The one is sitting on a dirt obstacle, and there are a bunch more obstacles to the right, out of the picture. At the very far end of the circuit was a kid with his bike. Clearly he could see the coyotes, because he stood next to his bike, just watching them, waiting to see what they would do. In coyote v. BMX, it’s pretty clear who’s going to win.

It’s a little unnerving, though, to see the coyotes quite so close. You know they don’t want to mess with humans, but you also don’t know whether they could get aggressive, or if they’re just fragile enough that encountering us could harm them – the way that touching butterfly wings is so tempting, because they are so beautiful, but cripples the butterfly if you can’t resist.

I love seeing the new neighbors, at the same time that I want to tell them to run far, far away.

Product v. process

I have always been a product knitter – I almost invariably knit because I want the finished object (and since it’s me, because I want to wear a particular sweater). I regularly frog projects partway through if it becomes clear that I won’t wear the finished item, and out of this “the right final product is what I want” mindset, I also frog projects that I’ve finished and worn and have decided don’t really work for me as is. That takes a little bit more resolution, but I’m pretty comfortable with those decisions (in fact, I am considering frogging my Boxy & Buttony pullover – it’s amazingly comfortable but it’s quite a lot of fabric, possibly too much to be really flattering on me, and I think that this yarn would benefit from being knit at a tighter gauge – maybe something like this, or this, or this – or at least something with seams. No rush on deciding, though, since it’s too hot here to wear wool sweaters for the next 6 months again).

Which is why I was kind of surprised recently to find myself pushing the items I want to own and wear to the back of my queue in favor of items I simply want to knit, for the sake of knitting them.

Craftsy had a big sale in the last week or so and it included Malabrigo Rios. I first encountered this yarn when I wanted to make a baby blanket for a friend and their stone-colored gray-yellow-beige colorway was perfect for my friend’s gray and yellow nursery.

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But then I went and made myself a sweater out of the leftovers because I loved knitting with it so much. I don’t normally knit worsted weight stuff, and I haven’t even been able to wear the sweater yet because it got too warm before I finished, but I love having the sweater and I loved making it. This yarn is just so lovely and soft and squishy and yet bouncy and a joy to knit with. It’s probably not as springy-bouncy as your average non-superwash, but it was still amazingly fun to work with, and it created a lovely fabric that had a nice amount of drape without being droopy or draggy. I don’t need super-hardy tough-as-armor sweaters, and I don’t like wearing those kinds of fabrics. This stuff was great.

So there I was, at the Craftsy sale, finding that Rios was on sale for less than I’d ever seen it, and finding myself powerless to resist buying a swack of it. In Teal Feather, because I’m a sucker for a good teal, and a semi-solid seemed more practical than the beautiful but harder to wear variegated stuff.

(I’m also in a particularly labor-intensive, energy-draining, confidence-beating moment at work – which is why I’ve had no time for blogging or even photo-taking – so the yarn was a promise of good times to my future self. Which is a whole other ball of emotional wax, of course.)

And now I just want to make things with this yarn for the sake of making them, not having them. Right now I am obsessed with the idea of making the Waking Tide pullover by Courtney Spainhower.

Waking_Tide1_medium2Photo © PinkBrutusKnits, borrowed off Ravelry; will happily remove if requested.

I just love this sweater. I love the yoke, I love the way the body of the sweater falls from the yoke, I love the minimal eyelet trim at the hem, I love the amount of ease, I love how good the pattern looks in a tonal or semi-solid, I love that it’s knit in the round and in one piece, I love that there’s lots of stockinette but that there’s also the yoke for a bit more challenge, I love that the yoke provides texture and movement but that the sweater is still fairly minimal and not fussy.

And don’t get me wrong, part of why I love it is that I think it would look decent on me – I have broad enough shoulders to hold up a sweater without shoulder seams, my bust is very average-sized so I don’t run into the problems busty ladies face in trying to figure out where a yoke should fall to be flattering, I like having the visual interest closer to my face, I like that it’s not fitted around the waist, and the length and hem treatment should work with my pear shape.

But chances are good I would wear this maybe five times a year. I would only be able to wear it to work on days I don’t have to wear a suit/jacket (i.e. no meetings), and I would only be able to wear it in comfort during our very short winter. It’s not the most practical choice for my lifestyle, is what I’m saying. Honestly, worsted weight wool, period, isn’t the most practical choice for my lifestyle but there are workarounds (I think a cardigan would be more versatile weather-wise than a pullover, especially something short-sleeved or shorter with some lace; or I could go for a short-sleeved pullover).

Nonetheless, I want it. Because I want to make it; I want to see the shape develop under my needles, I want to see how the transition to the yoke works, and what kind of shaping creates the yoke and the neckline. I want to see what this yarn will look like in this sweater. And I want to see what the sweater looks like when it’s done, and what it looks like on me.

For maybe the first time, that’s enough. Maybe I will make this sweater and try it on. Maybe I will love it, and keep it, and treasure it for those few times a year I can wear it. Maybe I will love it, and put it in a drawer, and nonetheless frog it a year later to make something else with the yarn. Maybe it will be meh, and I’ll decide right away to frog. But whatever I decide, I will have had the pure pleasure of making, which seems to be what’s hooking me now, more than the pleasure of having.

(Or maybe instead I’m hitting my annual discontent with the desert and want to knit this as an expression of homesickness for places that have what I think of as a normal climate. With winter. And cold. And a legitimate need for wool sweaters. That, too, is a whole other ball of emotional wax.)

Out of sync

I know I really can’t complain about the weather we have here – sunny and 75 pretty regularly; this past weekend was gorgeous, and I sat outside for hours and accumulated a dozen mosquito bites. Objectively speaking, it’s amazing weather. But I imprinted on northern climes, and it just. feels. wrong. to have this kind of weather in November.

Ah well. This is what the desert looks like in fall-turning-to-winter.  

 

 

 

 

And bonus desert cat (his camouflage would be pretty good if he closed his eyes).  

Coming up for air

I spent last week (and the weekend before it) absolutely swamped, and spent the weekend trying to become human again. The husband and I went outside tonight and sat on the curb to watch the moon go red, and that was pretty helpful.

Of course, since my only camera is my iPhone, the best picture I have of the eclipse itself looks like this: 

But I remember it, which is what matters. 

No more photographically ept, but maybe a bit prettier, was the beginning of the eclipse:  

    

In any case, it was a nice quiet moment, sitting on the warm curb, watching the sky, seeing the stars grow brighter as the moon grew dim, hearing kids running around the arroyo while their parents marked the movements of the heavens. 

Hey, I actually finished something (so I’m casting on for something new, oops)

Remember that baby blanket that I’d calculated completely wrong? Finished!

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This seemed to go much more quickly than the first half of the blanket of miscalculation, which was a relief. And I think the recipient liked it? It’s always a little hard to tell how much of a reaction is real and how much is politeness. I was a little worried the colors would look drab and not sufficiently cheerful for a baby, but I chose the colorway because the baby’s nursery is grey and yellow (grellow!), and the soft stony grays and beiges-shading-to-yellow seemed just right. The mom seemed to like it, anyway, which is what matters.

Personally, I find myself walking a fine line between beneficence and arrogance with knitted gifts – on the one hand, I want to give people I care about a hand-knit item because it’s personal, made just for them, with affection and care and consideration. I put work and skill into that item.

On the other hand, there’s definitely a part of me that wants to give  hand-knit gifts to show off: look what I can do! look at the pretty thing I made! And I worry that what I give ends up determined by what I can/want to make, more than what the recipient really likes/wants/needs.

But I’m pleased with this one.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the pattern is Smooth Sailing by Tanis Lavalee (it was very clear and easy to follow, and a fun, easy to read stitch pattern), and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios, which is superwash merino. I know I should disapprove of superwash, because (in my not very technical understanding) it destroys the natural scale found on wool and coats it with some kind of plastic, to keep the scale open and ensure that the yarn won’t felt in the wash (because the scales can’t stick to each other). It also has a slightly droopy, floppy quality sometimes. But I loved this yarn for its softness, and after all, it is for a baby, so both softness and ability to go in the washing machine are important.

(But who am I kidding – I love those things for me. I really want to buy enough in the Aguas colorway to make myself a Lipstick sweater, or a Liv. I’m not going to – at least, not right now – because I have LOTS of yarn, and LOTS of WIPs, and even more in the pipeline, and, honestly, not that much use for worsted weight sweaters. But I still really want more of this yarn. To distract myself – because I totally couldn’t do that with any of my current WIPs, now, could I? – I’ve actually cast on something else:

IMG_1235It’s actually quite a bit bigger than that by now, but more about that another time!)

In totally unrelated news, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to wear a tank top on my walk today, around noon, in the hopes of evening out the slight farmer’s tan I’ve acquired from wearing tee shirts the rest of the time. I didn’t really think about how I usually walk in the evening, when the sun is very low on the horizon, and that even though it’s September, it’s still hot here because the sun is still very strong here. I have lobster shoulders now. Ow.

August in the desert

August in the desert is not the most pleasant of months. We had a visiting dignitary at work earlier this week, and in the introduction, my boss said, “And it’s a true sign of her dedication that she’s come down here to see us in August.” But on a different day last week, I walked out of work to see these clouds:

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It was still fairly muggy, but the temperature had dropped below 90 degrees for the first time in yonks, and I’d been cooped up inside for days, so I went for a walk.

It’s interesting to see little bits of greenery pop up wherever water can collect:

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I also really liked how these trees looked like an elderly lady’s crossed knees.IMG_0987

It seems that the acacia trees are over for the summer, and have been for a while, but you still seem to find tiny yellow flowers scattered in nooks and crevices.IMG_1004

The prickly pear have all fruited, and the tunas (as they’re called in Spanish) are this amazing burnished burgundy, to which my iPhone doesn’t really do justice. I’ve seen people harvesting the fruits recently, too – people make a lovely jelly from them. (You can also eat the pads of the cactus, or nopales, although the one below looks a little unappetizing. I ate prickly pear fries in the northern part of the state around New Year’s, and they were tasty, mildly sweet and a little juicy.)IMG_1035

You have to respect people who are willing to brave the spines, tiny and big, to make food from the prickly pear. Sometimes it feels like everything in the desert that might hold a little moisture is guarded by spikes, to keep away thirsty marauders.

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The clouds never turned into anything more threatening – by the end of my walk, the sun had come out, turning all the wildflowers-gone-to-seed and grasses into gold.
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