Breathe

IMG_2279

Around the time I turned 40, I thought my heart was in serious trouble. I experienced heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness… One night I got so anxious I called the doctor. He asked my if my arms were tingling (‘Yes, they are! That’s why I finally decided to call because I was so afraid…’).

His answer? ‘Well that’s good, because it means you’re not having a heart attack. It does mean that you are hyperventilating, however. And that means you need to take a close look at your life. Because 16-year old girls can start to hyperventilate for no reason, just because. But 40-year old girls… well… if they start hyperventilating, it usually means there is something seriously amiss in their life…’

I never forgot those words and the way that kind, kind doctor said them. Of course my life was in real trouble at the time, and it only got worse for a while. But it was the day I realised how I simply stop breathing when things become to hard, in an effort to hold in that deluge of pain, or sadness, or anxiety, for fear it will swallow me alive.

It was also the day I started to learn that you have to keep breathing. In… out… Deep, endless breaths that not only fill your body with oxygen but allow you to breathe in light, and breathe out darkness.

It was the day I started to take life back into my own hands. And breathe as if my life depended on it.

IMG_2527

Silver and Golden

Image

Last year this time, I was home alone. For me, New Year’s Eve has not been a night of celebration for a long time and I’m not sure it will ever be that again. Somehow it is associated with too much melancholy, endings, saying goodbye and farewell. And yet something is different. Last year on my own, not feeling forced to be artificially happy or pleasant, it felt like a new beginning for the first time in a long time.

And so it is this year. Somehow I have come into my own and that, my dear and faithful friends, is reason to celebrate. It is an ongoing process of course and I still battle my daemons, but there seem to be fewer of them and more of me.

I think there has not been a single day this year in which I did not realise and appreciate how beautiful this world – this life – really is. Naturally there is sorrow and sadness and pain and anger, but there is always beauty. And I have learned the true meaning of gratitude.

Gratitude when riding my bicycle in sunshine or rain, one little girl in front of me and one in back, singing, humming, chattering, warm bodies pressing against me, saying ‘Mummy you are the sweetest and the best’. My beautiful fifteen year old regaining his joy and wonderful smile in an off-system new school, hugging me and rubbing his cheek against mine, hoping for the day I will tell him his skin is prickly and he needs to shave. 

Gratitude when sticking my hands in the earth, picking flowers and herbs in my beautiful little garden, smelling the lovely, lovely scents of nature. Walking on the beach, head bent towards the sand as in my youth, collecting shells and storm-tossed wood… Strolling through the forest, smelling the earth, sitting beneath an oak tree and hearing the leaves whisper in the wind… My house has been filling up with plants, leaves, sticks, stones, shells and feathers and something loosens inside me every time I see them, smell them, touch them. Truly there is healing in allmother nature.

Gratitude when getting up at five in the morning, shivering and tired, to start work because that is the most quiet and peaceful time of day for me and those few precious early hours are when I do most and best. Oh, so grateful for having work and making money I can call my own (sort of) and at the same time being home for my boy and girls, even though I complain because I am running around all day from school to work to grocery shopping and laundry and cleaning and finally, blissedly, bed. 

Gratitude for the rediscovery of my great well of creativity, sadly neglected these many years but still waiting and willing to pour forth in such wealth. And the discovery of so many others whose creativity has inspired mine and made me better. So many beautiful people willing to share and reach out and encourage.

I have discovered people on the Web who have become precious to me, places that I love to dwell in, new dreams and creations to explore each day. People with great courage and love and wisdom who have made my life richer in the encountering and sharing. 

Gratitude, also, for having so much and so much therefore to give. Gratitude and generosity, I have come to understand, are two sides of the same coin. I hope I have given freely of myself and returned some of the gifts I have received.

It has been a silver and golden year. Not without its shadows, of course, some cast by others and some my own, but definitely filled with silver and golden light and much, much love.

So I am strangely amused to find myself looking forward to this ending and beginning all in one, even if just symbolic, and curious to see what another year will bring. I have been falling into the gravity well of my self and now, cautiously finding an orbit around that stable centre within, am striding forward once more.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage 

Photos: Eucalyptus and iron eco dye on ecological silk jersey, December 2013

Thoughtful

DSC09450Fall leaves used to dye an old silk top that I never liked. The silk looks more beautiful now, cut into pieces soaked up colour from nature. I stitched a piece into my personal journal. The paper holds, a small surprise. Aren’t these leaves the most beautiful thing on earth right now?

Beppe’s leafy neck warmer

Image

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned working on a little project for my grandmother-in-law (is that even a word?), D’s beloved grandmother. Or properly speaking in Friesian, his Beppe. She is ill and recently celebrated what may be her last birthday, so I wanted it to be a special birthday gift. And of course in many cases making a gift with your own hands is probably much nicer than something store-bought, especially if you want to express your love for and appreciation of the recipient.

I wanted this one to be a little frivolous (because life is serious enough as it is), something sweet and lovely to look at.

My daughters picked a skein of Malabrigo silky merino from my stash. I have no idea what colourway – could it be Arco Iris? I spent an enjoyable hour trolling Ravelry for a suitable pattern and finally picked Grace Mcewen’s Leafy Cabled Neck Warmer as suitably frivolous. It is one pattern from the Tangled Leaves e-book, which contains 10 patterns inspired by nature. You can also find Grace’s patterns in her KnitChicGrace shop Etsy here.

The leafy neck warmer is a quick yet challenging knit (the leaves in particular require a bit of undistracted attention), especially for a beginner like me. It is knit in two halves, which are then grafted together.

Since I blocked the first half I had to do the other one as well, but I think I preferred the unblocked version. It had more body and the leaves really stood out in relief. Unfortunately I cannot show you any pictures of my own (because I forgot to make some) but I think Grace’s pattern on Ravelry shows an unblocked version.

Also I could not figure out how it was supposed to be worn. None of the yarnovers created holes big enough to pass the other end through, so in the end I crocheted a little loop that does the job perfectly. To be honest I’m not sure how wearable it really is as a scarf or how warm it is as a neck warmer but it certainly looks pretty. Especially in this beautiful yarn.

Image

All in all I was pretty happy with the result. I would knit this pattern again and experiment with yarns and gauges, as well as blocking intensity (the Malabrigo silky merino did a ‘whoosh’ relaxation act when blocked, it flattened out rather a lot).

The girls decorated a bag and were very excited to present our gift to Beppe, who is their great-grandmother of course. It must be such a privilege to live long enough to see your children’s children’s children…

FO: Saroyan shawl

Image

Just a quick note to show you my Saroyan shawl, which I cast off last week. Although I do know that wool garments need to be dried flat, I never really thought about it until I learned about blocking. Saroyan was my first official ‘finished object blocked’ (FOB, not a bad acronym actually) and I am utterly pleased at how the blocked shape remains… well… in shape as I wear it. Wool is truly the most amazing thing.

Image

I did not block aggressively (partly because I only had a small box of needles inherited from my grandmother) so I concentrated on the leaf pattern. That turned out really nicely although I wish Saroyan had been a bit wider. I loved knitting this pattern and I might cast on again, but I would increase more intensively and use more repeats to create a wider shawl.

Image

I am very pleased with how it turned out nevertheless and in love with the Madeline Tosh… um… I’m afraid I have to admit I do not remember which MadTosh yarn and colourway I used. The photos are fairly true to colour and there is a lovely glaze to the yarn that makes it look truly luxurious. Definitely a yarn I will use again!

I find that I am drawn to patterns that reflect the natural world. You are doing a beautiful thing when you create such luscious, useful, intricately worked objects with yarn from nature, inspired by nature.