Monday, September 1, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Being a Strand of Yarn

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I find being human a struggle. On the one hand, we are born, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to survive. We look out for our best interests, strive to find the best value for money, make sure we stay away from people and things that might drag us down.

And on the other hand, we have feelings. We feel guilt, happiness, fear, anger, and one that is surprisingly hard to cultivate: compassion.

It's hard to cultivate compassion because it requires looking past the things that make us uncomfortable as humans. I means we have to face things that are scarred, broken, and frightening, and to try to see the human on the inside. And it's not just for strangers. It's for our enemies, the people who we want to be around the very least. It's hard for me. I struggle with it daily, not just because I believe it will make me a better person, but because I would want someone to do the same for me.

I really can't remember how I stumbled on it, but I came across this article about a man who gives free haircuts to the homeless on his days off. His name is Mark Bustos, and he runs a hair salon in New York City. He started giving free haircuts in his home country of the Philippines while visiting his family, and decided to carry on doing it back in NYC. So, every Sunday, he goes out looking for people who might appreciate a haircut.

He makes sure he does it out in the open, where people can see what he is doing, not so that they can see him, so that others can find inspiration in the good deed, and be kind to those less unfortunate as well. And when he is finished, he shows them how they look and offers to pay for a meal. One man looked at himself, then looked at Mark and asked, "Do you know anyone that's hiring?"

He posts photos of these haircuts on his Instagram account. Looking through each photo reminded me that every one of those people were just... people. Not numbers, not bums. And that means that they are the same as me.

"Every human life is worth the same," he says.

Mark Bustos on Instatram
From Markbustos on Instagram

Today, I am inspired by people like Mark who remind me that it costs nothing to be kind. Putting away my arrogance and frustration is freeing. Being compassionate with an extra dollar or two for the food bank is little effort for so much gain. I refuse to become hardened in a world that requires me to be tough.

Maybe that's why I love my yarn so much: a strand soft and flexible, strong when pulled, even stronger when developed into fabric, but pleasant all the same. I could be that, too. So there, hard world. So there.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Behind or Ahead

Word has it that it is nearly September. The realization comes with a bit of a shock, but also somewhat of a relief. Life is busy in the summertime, even if Porgy and Bess say the livin' is easy.

So, what of summer projects? Something cotton? Fresh? Cool and easy to wear?

Well... how about wool?

It seems like I've got my seasons all mixed up, because this summer has been all about working on merino and alpaca projects. Mind you, I've been so busy that the projects have been slow-going, but you'd think I'd throw in a bit of something different for a change.

I'm blocking a scarf based on Wisp by Cheryl Niamath from a summer issue of Knitty, which would be a summery project, were it not for the fact that it is knit in merino wool. In my defence, I really wanted to knit something with this yarn, because the colours are so striking. It's a hand dyed skein from a now-defunct indie Etsy store. It was kind of a hit-and-miss project: each time I picked it up to work on it, I had to decide if I still liked it. I think I like it more now that it is blocking. It's starting to show its true self.


And now that that is finished, I decided to pick up a skein of laceweight bamboo yarn to work on, just in time for the fall! Yes, the days are shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and soon, the chill will be in the air. Uh huh, bamboo time. Yup. Ready for next summer, I guess.

I took it with me during a work trip this week. I never thought I'd stuff a ball of yarn and a crochet hook into a hard hat, that's for sure:


The yarn was a gift from my friend, dkzack. She got it during a trip to Olds Fibre Week a couple of years ago, before she realized she didn't really like working with laceweight yarn. It's a pretty hefty skein, probably about 900 yards by my calculations. I decided I didn't want to fight my way through a knitted laceweight project, so after a few trials, I decided on a free crochet pattern from Lion Brand called Tranquil Wrap. It's a pattern I would have never looked twice at before. It was only that I had spotted some of the versions that people had made with light weight yarns that I changed my mind. I tried a few different hook sizes before I decided on a size that felt right (seriously, I don't know how anyone can crochet with laceweight with a hook larger than 4.00mm). It's slow-going, but I think it's still going to eat up the yarn faster than with a knitted project. And I got quite a bit of it done in the airport the other day:


So, wool for summer, bamboo for fall. But you know, maybe I'm not behind on the seasons. I went shopping on the weekend and discovered that black and red are SO IN this fall. So like, maybe I'm just fashion forward. Ahead of the game, that's me. Follow me, pack. I shall bring you to the FUTURE.

Yeah, I know. I'm tired. It's Friday. Gimme a break. Back to the hook.

P.S. Rascal is doing pretty well. He's a bit skinny, but he's more comfortable these days, as you can see:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Grateful

Rascal is home. The vet said he was good to come home at lunch time, after two nights in the animal hospital being treated for septicemia. His immune system is suppressed as a result of the chemotherapy he is getting on a tumour, so he was extra susceptible to infection. I was so glad to open the door and find him running toward me... and for him to run away when I tried to pick him up!

I'm grateful to have another chance to give him a cuddle. He is actually a lot happier than he's letting on in this photo. Man, I wish he'd be happier for the camera.

Living for the moment...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quiet House

I brought Rascal to the vet this morning. I've been anxious about him since yesterday morning. He was fine first thing yesterday, and we went out for a short walk. He came home and settled onto his bed, but after an hour, he woke up coughing and swallowing, as if he had something caught in his throat. He eventually settled down, but by the evening, he wouldn't eat or drink, and was lethargic and glassy-eyed. I brought him outside to go pee before bed, and he walked unsteadily back to the house, wavering back and forth, until I picked him up and carried him in.

I heard him moving around a bit in the middle of the night, so I carried him downstairs to see if he would drink any water. He wasn't very responsive, even after I managed to syringe a little bit into his mouth and made sure he swallowed it. Afterward, I carried him back up to bed, then came back down to the couch and sat down. My stomach was in knots, and my throat was tight. I picked up my knitting and worked through a few rows with the laptop on my lap. I searched through patterns online in between rows, trying to distract myself from the fear and sadness.

He's at the vet now, getting IV fluids to rehydrate him and meds to reduce a high temperature, an x-ray for his laboured breathing, and a blood test to see what the rest of his organs are doing. Today is one of those rare days when I want to do the chores: iron my shirts, wash the floors, do the dusting... anything and everything to keep my mind distracted.

Today, my yarn is not necessarily a comfort. It is an act of motion to keep my mind distracted, to allay my fears just a little bit. I am knitting to slow my breathing, to focus my mind, and to ease the guilt of the thoughts of how much easier life would be without a dog... the places we'd be allowed to stay, the events we'd go to...

But it would be a life without my little teddy bear.

I know he's just a dog, and that life is supposed to end sometime, but I don't care about anyone's philosophies right now. I don't want anyone's platitudes about the rainbow bridge or the end of journeys or any of that. He's my Rascal, and I want him to feel better. That's all.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: If I Were a Tree

I stopped at a little farm market on the way home today to buy a pint of grape tomatoes to add to my daily vegetable snack (or bucket o' vegetables, as people have called it). It's my favourite place to buy tomatoes when they are in season. For me, a tomato that isn't in season is just a little bag of sour water. When they are in season, I eat them like their going out of style.

While I'm the market, I always cruise around to see what there is. Today, I saw these beautiful plums:


And yeah, sometimes I buy fruit because of their beauty first. Luckily, at a farm market, everything beautiful is also tasty!

When I got home, I got thinking about a video I watched a while back, about a tree that was grafted to bear forty different varieties of stone fruits. When I first read about it, my first inclination was to think, "Well, that's unnatural. Why would you do such a thing?"

But then I watched the video, and I realized that he wasn't doing it for fun, to experiment Franken-style on something he didn't understand. Instead, he was doing it to find a unique solution to saving trees that were becoming extinct. In a world where people just don't want to have space for stuff that doesn't grow "fast enough" or "long enough," he was finding a way to keep these things around, so we could better understand them, and to retain a diversity of plants that will likely save us from losing our fruit stocks if the intensive farms that only grow one kind of thing were to be destroyed.

Diversity is really the spice of life. If you only work on one kind of thing, grow one kind of plant, raise one kind of cattle, then if disease were to hit that one thing, you'd have no back ups. It has happened in the past, and will very likely happen again.

Earlier today, I talked to a man who has been suddenly struck by an illness that may prevent him from continuing his trade as a carpenter. And I wondered: will he find another way to grow? Another branch of himself that will help him to earn a living? I'm sad, but I'm hoping he will find a way.

And for myself, I feel truly that I am a jack of all trades and master of none. I used to get really depressed that I didn't have a passion, a THING that other people seem to chase their whole lives, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. If I were a tree, I'd bear at least a few different fruits. I never thought of it that way until now.

Food for thought.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Built for Comfort, Not for Speed

"What do you do, Adriene? Do you go home and lock yourself in your house each day?"

Someone asked me that last weekend. He'd asked me if we'd been to this place yet, that place, the other place, and I said no to most... no, not yet.

The question has echoed in my mind since then. When people ask me questions like that, I immediately start to feel insecure. I wonder: What do I do with my time anyway? I should be doing all of these things, going to all of these places, devouring as much life as I possibly can...

But maybe not.

I live a pretty quiet life. I don't party anymore... maybe on the rare occasion at a wedding or get-together, but being an early-riser means that I'm ready for bed at 9:00pm. My favourite weekends are the ones with no plans, no obligations. And while there are a lot of places on this Island I haven't visited yet, all of the unknown little nooks and crannies I have stumbled upon have delighted me enough to be deeply satisfied with that for now, like this place:


And this place, where if you look up, you see purple martins nesting above:


And this place, where there is a bench...


... and if you glance at the panel under the bench , you see this:


And this place, which I saw from the air yesterday as the hubby flew us over the water for a daytrip on the mainland:


All I want right now are quiet moments to sit with my knitting. I've been finding them in the few minutes before the gym opens in the morning, sitting in my car, watching the sunrise, working a few stitches before they unlock the doors and I lug myself in for an hour of sweating.


All I want right now are moments to have my mind to myself, to watch the breeze pass through the trees, or to sit on my yoga mat... that is, when it is unoccupied.



And while it's not an exciting life, it's the one I prefer. And others are entitled to do what they want with their time, but right now, right here, as I sit outside with my laundry, enjoying the warm weather, I am content. I may not be there for all of the bang and flash of the fireworks, but I think I'm made more for the snap of the firewood, and the warmth of the sunshine.



Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Hitting the Target

I work at a place where most of our work occurs out of town at worksites in remote areas. A lot of our employees are daddies who have to go away from their families for three weeks at a time to earn their living. It's the trade-off for living in a beautiful place like Vancouver Island; few people are able to live AND work here.

Once a week, we have a teleconference with all of our sites. Each site usually has to share something safety-related that they learned that week. One of our employees started off by telling us about the importance of doing a walk-around of your vehicle before you get in and drive. He learned this the hard way, because someone had neglected to close the tailgate of the pick up he was driving. "When I got to the hotel," he said, "I realized all the kits were still in there... but my suitcase was gone."

And then he continued to say how he'd lost his clothing, his work supplies and gear... and then his voice broke when he got to the part about how he'd lost all the little mementos that his children had given him "for when daddy has to go to work."

And my heart broke.

Last weekend, on a long shot, I posted a message on Facebook with the situation, a description of the suitcase, and a map of the general area of where it might have been lost. I asked people to share it, in the hopes that it might get to the right person. It got shared and shared and shared, and I had a little tiny hope that something might come of it in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, I got an email with a message that said, "We found the suitcase you are looking for." It had a phone number and a name.

I called. The lady who answered told me how she had seen the suitcase fall out of the pick up, and how she retrieved it and tried to find the owner. She told me how she'd opened it up in the hopes she'd find a name and some kind of contact details. She found the work gear, the clothes, and the little gifts from his children. She didn't know what to do with it, until she had seen this post that had eventually been shared to a community page she frequented on Facebook.

I have never made a more rewarding phone call as the one I made to the owner of the suitcase.

And you know what I'm so happy about? I'm happy that this thing we call the Internet was used for something really, really good. I must stress: I posted this message from here in Vancouver Island, about something that was lost 1,235km from here (about 740 miles). And it got to the right person.

In an age where people use the Internet to voice opinions that they don't necessarily have to stand behind...

Where people can anonymously post videos of people doing horrible things to others...

Where it is used to share hurtful, painful thoughts...

What if we tried to make sure we didn't give air time to the bad stuff out there, and we remembered to use this thing we have for the good stuff?

For words of encouragement, inspiring stories, beautiful photos of our families, things that make us smile and think and create...

What if we did? What a truly wonderful global community we might create.