Sunday, November 27, 2016

A pale tint of azure

Once upon a time I had an Advent-blue dress. Maybe the shade was closer to navy than to Advent candle blue. It was pretty basic, from Land's End, with long sleeves and a hem below my knees--the kind of thing you buy to dress up by adding a scarf or a necklace or, you know, "something great." Not that I owned something great to dress it up with. Mostly I put it on and was relieved to be covered and ready for church in something that looked presentable and required no ironing.

I walked into the choir loft one Sunday in Advent wearing that dress, and the organist said, "Look at you in your Advent-blue dress."

Or did he say "Advent-blue gown"? Maybe he did, because "Alice Blue Gown" is a thing, or was a thing when it was a hit song in 1919. The Alice-blue gown belonged to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, oldest daughter of TR. Alice blue is actually quite pale, an icy evening gown color. Or the paler tints of blue in this, from Wikipedia:

AP97 ice floes (3422931129).jpg
By michael clarke stuff - AP97 ice floes, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

My Advent-blue dress is long gone, out of style and too big for me now. So this morning's Advent blue was navy pants and a merino cardigan in a bright navy. Tonight at my house, there's a dark blue tablecloth on the dining room table and an Advent-blue Christmas runner on the table next to my chair. The cowl and ear warmer I knit last weekend of blue handspun are lying around waiting to be worn for the first time.

And the kitchen table holds two boxes of blue lights I bought this afternoon which are destined for the backyard fence sometime in the week to come.

Where am I going with all this? I don't think it's about seeing blue, or liking blue, or decorating with blue. What's really going on is I'm feeling blue and wondering what to do with that in the longer-than-usual Advent ahead.

"O wie selig, muss ich sein," I sang this morning in church in a bit of Bach. "How blessed must I be, when Jesus comes and lives in my heart" ("Öffne dich" from BWV 61, Nun komm der Heiland Heiden). It was an excited little aria whose elegant ornamentation I should probably keep right on practicing. No blues there. Well, maybe in the relative-minor B-section--with a text that says something about "though I am but dust and earth, Jesus does not scorn me."

Despite the Advent-blue at church, the navy blue in my closet, the deep blues on my table, the hope in my heart is Alice blue this season—"a pale tint of azure," says Wikipedia.

It's a slight shimmer above dark waters, light bouncing off crags and challenges, glittering and gone.  You wait for it, you watch to see. It is distant and wary of easy answers.

And yet that blue light, the light of blues, is the light of Christ, thanks be to God.

(Note to self: new dress for Christmas?)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yarn and elections

I went on a yarn diet at the beginning of 2016. If you're not a knitter, you might be puzzling over just what that might be. For me it was knit the the yarn you've got, don't buy new. I stuck to it for six and half months without lacking yarn to knit with. Made myself a new red cardigan. Made socks. Worked on another sweater for me out of baby alpaca purchased eight or more years ago.

A yarn diet is not like denying yourself chocolate chip cookies. Knitting with midnight blue baby alpaca is not exactly ascetic.

However, like many diets, this one had a bounce back effect: you go off the diet and regain all you've lost, and more.

I learned a couple decades ago that the most dangerous time of any sewing or knitting project was right before you finish it, when it's looking good and it's just hours away from being folded up and set on the table and pronounced done. You have these feelings of power--look what I've done--that rapidly expand into omnipotence--think of everything I can do next! So you start things and shop for things and pretty soon you have three new projects in the works, despite the fact that you've only finished one. You can see where this is going.

I broke my yarn fast mid-summer when I opened an email from that was in my junk folder. It offered a discontinued color of Cascade 220, my favorite reasonably priced good-quality worsted, at 40 percent off. While I have quite the yarn stash for socks and hats and smallish projects, the sweater-quantity backlog is quite modest. If I needed to start a new sweater right now, there'd be exactly three yarns to choose from: one white, one in a mix of green and blue color repeats that's tricky to put into a garment, and a bag of bright pink. Cedar green worsted caught my attention. I ordered it and my 24-year-old son got a new fall sweater.

Holy moly, release the kraken:

Though actually, it was more like this:

People trying to lose weight should avoid bakeries. Knitters on yarn diets should avoid sheep and wool shows and yarn shops and Ravelry and even Facebook, where I see almost as many yarn ads as I do for online bra purchases.

(Don't let Third Love or Brayola catch you shopping for bras online. Their marketing research must have told them that once they've got a woman thinking she needs a new bra, constant nagging will get her to purchase one.)

So I've been making myself happy with yarn lately. Each purchase is an idea, usually a gift for someone specific, someone I want to wrap in the love that literally warms toes, shoulders, ears. Each purchase is also about time spent with a beautiful color, with fiber moving through my fingers, with the quiet click of the needles, with the rhythm of throwing the yarn.

The yarn cares for me.

I spent election night at a friend's election night party, which quickly devolved into a wake. As Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin began to turn to Trump, I got up, said thank-you, and went home to my knitting. Fussy, patterned sock knitting on skinny metal needles bent into a permanent curve by my grip, the leveraging needed for a knit-two-together, and pedal-to-the-metal to the end of round.

I'm gonna need all this yarn in the four years ahead.