Sleepy Sheep and Decisions

I finally got some 3.0mm (2.5US) needles and started my Sleepy Sheep socks!


That was when I just started. After an evening of TV knitting this is what I had:


Things progress quickly when knitting sport weight socks! I think these socks will be my favorite socks this winter; a double thickness of sport weight yarn will be cozy! I say "double thickness' because of the stranding of the unused color which runs along the back of the work, which makes them really cozy feeling.


The Norwegian sweaters with the patterned yokes around the shoulders were not just for decoration; the double stranding of the bulky weight yarn made them really warm, like wearing a shawl or cloak around your shoulders. Smart Norwegians. They knew how to take care of the cold! 

Now for the decision I'm trying to make.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in November. Usually I have an idea that I've been kicking around for a while, characters kind of formulated, a plot that is hanging loosely in my mind. This year? I've got nothing. I mean N O T H I N G. 

I've been told that I should write about my stroke and recovery. The problem is, for the most exciting part, I was in a coma. And I am still recovering. And besides, I think if I write anything about it, it will have to be a non-fiction book, something to be used by the people who most need it: stroke survivors. I don't think it should be a NaNoWriMo book. 

Which got me thinking about NaNoWriMo writing. I realized I just write NaNoWriMo books "for fun".  They are a way of filling Novembers up. I never do anything with them after I write them; I don't even read them again. Why would I want to read something so horrible?? I know, you are telling me that I should do all the stuff to edit them and get them published. The problem is, it is a lot of work to get something publishable. And I am really lazy. If I am going to work that hard on something, I want it to be something important, like working to walk without my brace or using my right hand and arm. Publishing a book seems not that important, especially a piece of fluff like my writing. 

I'll think about it further, but right now I am not very enthusiastic about it. Maybe I just need more coffee! Or an idea!

So Exciting!

1. I finished my Inspira Cowl that Lynne and I were making; it is a project that both of us got during the SPA back in February at Mother of Purl in Freeport, Maine. Lynne chose to do hers in a dark navy blue with glowing blue, green, turquoise and brown colors peeking through, and it looks like a cathedral window.  I, on the other hand, went with a riot of color. I chose to use 2 skeins of Lang Yarns Milli Colori Baby color 845 (Tutti Frutti) and a skein of Louisa Harding Amitola in color 845 Violetta. We both finished our cowls this week, and I am very happy with my result! 

Inspira Cowl      0000323470_medium2

2. My Daily Mindful Meditation Blanket is coming along nicely. It is 13 days since I started. The project is openly shared on Ravelry so you can see it, but here are a few pictures:

0000317639_small2    0000318181_small2    0000279759_small2    FullSizeRender__16__small2

The blanket will be 10 diamonds across, and I'm thinking 15 diamonds high. We will see.

3. The yarn for my next big project is waiting at the post office! I'll pick it up today. I hope it is just right for what it is intended for. I'll tell you all about it later!

4. This is October, a fine month, laden with scary movies and chocolate. But the big news is that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is next month! So exciting!  This year I have my whole plot written out, so I know where I am going. I am ready! It should be fun!

NaNoWriMo, Writing, and This Blog

I conned my sister into doing NaNoWriMo with me this year. We were two of the over 41,000 people who successfully completed our novels in time, out of the 300,000 that tried. That just continues to amaze me, that number. That's like being in a group of people equal to a quarter the population of Maine, with just the population of Lewiston being successful!

My sister is a better writer than I am. Her mystery novel was very cool, tying in Vietnam-era skullduggery with small town politics, and she worked hard to get it done in time. I am very proud of her! She was behind most of the way, and she even had a thing where her novel disappeared in Google Docs, but she kept on plugging and soon she zoomed past me! (The novel was recovered in Google docs revision history -- phew!) My novel was a prequel to a novel I began about ten years ago, maybe more. It's a fantasy novel. Interestingly, it didn't really thrill me like I thought it would. I guess writing my blog is about all the writing I'm gonna do; good thing my blog loves me.

Speaking about blog writing, what the heck happened on August 19 this year? My page views spiked that day. In an effort to find out what happened (something that I never found out, by the way), I noticed that Liberty's Yarn said that this blog was ranked number six by Alexa. I have quite a few people who come to my blog from Liberty's Yarn, which is wonderful. Being ranked number six is sort of weird, because there is a blog ranked number four that hasn't been updated since 2011. All I can think is that they must offer a selection of free patterns like I do. I average about 125 page views a day from people coming for the free patterns. Interestingly, I have only had one person who tipped me for any of it, heh heh, so I have only had $5 worth of profit from it. Sigh.


My Knitting and Crochet, and NaNoWriMo

Mouse 49 is done:

Mouse 49

I got the right front of the little sweater done:

RF done
It was nice of Nicky to help out holding it up!

I worked on the In A Spin CAL, finishing the Wheel Lattice block for week two:

Week2In a Spin CAL
Isn't it pretty? I like it. It's a 12" square and next week's square is only 6". Of course there would be a 6" square, aand two 12" squares to during the final weeks of NaNoWriMo. Of course. And as soon as NaNoWriMo is over, all I have to do is a 6" square. Of couse. But!! I knew that might be the case when I signed up for it! So I put my crochet hook in four-wheel-drive and persevered!

And finally, NANOWRIMO IS OVER!!!!!!!! Yay!! I succeeded in writing a novel that was 50,278 words in length. Now I'm going to file it away so I never have to look at it again. It's that bad.

I learned from doing NaNoWriMo that I can write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days; or more importantly, I can write every day like it's my job. Because people, writing is really hard work. Really hard. You have to push yourself to do it, write when it's the last thing you feel like doing, write when you know it really sucks, write when you don't even know what is going to happen next. You just write anyway. Every day you write though, you're getting better. You just don't think you are.

Kind of like physical or occupational or speech therapy. You can't get better at anything if you just give up.

My Knitting

    Mice 46 and 47 are here!

Mice 46 & 47

They're so cute!

I finally finished my gray and white marled wool socks:

Gray marl wool socks

They look warm and cosy.

Then it was time to finaly, finally start the Childs Mendocino Cardigan by Alice Starmore. I've been thinking abouth this sweater for months. I chose yarn from my stash to do it in, but I needed to finish a bunch of things first, and yesterday I finally started.

I'm using Fiber Co,'s Organik, which is 70% organic NZ wool, 15% Baby Alpaca, and 15% silk, in the color called Deep Sea Blue. It is a lovely shade of blue, very striking, and the silk in the yarn dresses it up a bit, gives it a sheen, and I think the finished cardigan will move with the wearer in a way that will be fabulous. If we can ever get her to slow down long enough to try it on, that is. It's for a little girl who has the most beautiful blue eyes you ever saw, and this shade of blue will look stunning on her. It's for Christmas, so shhhhhh ....

Here's the start of my gauge swatch:

Gauge swatch started

And here's the start of the right front of the sweater:

Right front begun

Doesn't look like much so far, but it gets better! Actually, it's a pretty easy knit, for an Alice Starmore pattern. 

You may have noticed that I reached the halfway point in my NaNo novel yesterday. I think it's really funny that they call 50,000 words a novel. More like a novella, I think. I've been writing the bare minimum of 1,667 words each day, mostly because I don't really have a story to tell. They call people like me "pantsers", flying by the seat of my pants. I don't know what the heck's going to happen next, so it's always a surprise!

10 Writers I'd Like to Meet

Do you know, back in the 70's and 80's, the TV show called Meeting of Minds, with Steve Allen? It was set up like a talk show, but it was carefully scripted; actors portrayed historical figures and were asked questions by Steve Allen, giving thought-provoking answers, and getting thought-provoking comments from the other guests.


From the website, "Meeting of Minds encourages  the viewer and reader, who may be historically illiterate, to become more familiar with the great thinkers and doers of the past and to whet their appetites for more research and study." 

I'd like to do that with writers, put them together in a room and just let them talk. Here is a list of a few I'd like to hear:

1. William Shakespeare. I can't help it. I'm an English major.

2. Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Ditto. His Idylls of the King is written on my heart, as is his poetry.

3. Ayn Rand. Her books were powerful and amazing. Atlas Shrugged is one of my all-time favorites.

4. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who wrote Women's Work: The First 20,000 years, and Mummies of the Urumchi, and Pre-Historic Textiles. Love her books.

5. Stephen King. Not all his books are scary. His characters and plots are wonderful.

6. Anne McCaffery, mistress of the dragon in literature. I want to go to Pern.

7. Diana Gabaldon, time-travel writer extraordinaire. (Sigh ... I love Jamie).

8. Kurt Vonnegut. He made me laugh all through high school.

9. Isaac Asimov. He made me wonder and think all through high school.

10. C. S. Lewis. Who doesn't want to go back to Narnia every now and then?


What writers would you like to see?

To NaNo, or not to NaNo...

... that is the question. 

I want to participate in NaNoWriMo, and then again, I don't. It makes me want to put my head down and sleep. I can't think of anything to write about. 

Writing. I'm in love with the idea of writing, I love to write when it takes over my mind, my body, and I write because I just can't stop, when the words are pouring, gushing out of me, I'm overflowing with ideas .... I love that. But lately, the well has dried up and frankly, it needs some serious priming. 

So. To NaNo, or not to NaNo. 


Can you write 50,000 words about not having anything to write about? Can you write about the search for an idea? I looked over the forums at NaNoWriMo, and people have got their outlines all ready, their character descriptions, their place settings, they are soooo ready ... I don't even have an idea of what to write about.

I have a laptop with unlimited pixels, though. I have coffee. Who needs ideas, I can make ideas, given enough incentive. Bring it on, 50,000 words, I am ready to prime my writing pump with you. Sneer at me if you must, you snively little words. "I" counts the same as "antidisestablishmentarianism" in the word count! Even this blog post word count is up to 216 words! 

"Are you in charge here?"

"No, but I'm full of ideas!"

        --- Dr. Who



It's that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, will be here in seven days. I completed it successfully once, with a story about a suicidal heroine who is haunted by ghosts and finds love (not a ghost; a forest ranger). This year I am fresh out of ideas. My unsuccessful attempts were a murder mystery in a yarn shop, and a fantasy story where every day involved a different room in an old house (I thought that would make the thirty days go by fast), but this year I'm coming up with nothing. I have seven days to  come up with the elusive Something.

Anybody up to NaNoWriMo-ing with me? C'mon ... it'll be fun!


The Room of Many Drawers

≈≈   The old Drakoni inhabited all of the large rooms in the bottom of the tower. In Alessa’s tower, there were her room and her father’s room, and six other rooms that also were used as living quarters, including those of the harbormaster, the dockmaster, several ship captains who made the town their homeport, and Alessa’s old nurse, Mara. Alessa didn’t know to what purpose Hanno put all the rooms in his tower. She had only ever been in two of them. The main one, where he kept his books and received visitors, had become a classroom for Alessa. Hanno had taken her on as a student, at Allyn’s request. There, he taught her math and science, languages and geography. She had also been in the adjoining room, a laboratory where Hanno had guided her experiments in chemistry, biology, and physics. Alessa loved this room. The walls were covered with a wooden framework containing hundreds of drawers, all sizes, big ones, small ones, wide ones, narrow ones. Each drawer had a unique intricately-carved wooden pull directly in it’s center. Hanno would send her looking for items for him in the drawers occasionally. “It’s in the butterfly drawer,” he’d say, or “the drawer with the Mykara bloom on it.” She had spent hours examining the drawer pulls, admiring the care of the carver, the exacting detail in each pull. She suspected Hanno had carved them himself.  ≈≈

Why I Write

‎"Write with your eyes like painters, your ears like musicians, your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire. Don’t let the pen banish you from yourself. Don’t let the ink coagulate in your pens. Don’t let the censor snuff out the spark, or their gags muffle your voice. Put your shit on the paper.” - Gloria Anzaldúa


I ran across this quote awhile ago, thought it was neat, so I saved it. Some days this is the writer I want to be, some days it isn't. But, this is the writer-hero that I like to feel is there somewhere. Even on the days when I stare blankly at the screen, wondering What To Write, I like to feel like the hero's in there, cheering me on. 

Sure, I just write a knitting blog ... and knitting ain't rocket science. Still, it's writing, it's steady, day after day writing (Wellllll Wordless Wednesdays is a bit of a gaff, I should really write something from now on, we'll see) and I can pat myself on the back for not having missed a day. Who knows where it will end? My first real job after the stroke? When I start having manuscripts accepted, if I write any? Heck, when I start writing for publication? I don't know. I'm going to keep on writing, in any case, even if nobody reads it (and I know some of you do, thank you!). It's just nice to know I have a knitting hero inside me when I need it.

Gloria Anzaldúa was an inspirational womn, a little bit wacky, and deeply spiritual. Here is one more quote from her, which sums up why I write, since my stroke:

"Why am I compelled to write?... Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger... To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit... Finally I write because I'm scared of writing, but I'm more scared of not writing.” 


Geoffrey Chaucer, I'm Sorry

I got to wondering why Chaucer never wrote about knitting. I mean, it seems like the obvious thing to do on a journey, as in The Canterbury Tales. I was building up steam about how our literary history is male based, and therefore men in charge of literature would never think that knitting would be important enough to be in anything they wrote about, when I discovered that knitting didn't really catch on in Europe until the 15th century ... and Geoffrey Chaucer died in the year 1400. He was about 100 years too early. Otherwise he would have started his Tales with

"Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
Wettens the lambe and laves the woole,
The spinerre makes suche lettil threed
To hie to kniterres evaerywher..."


I Wish It Would Always Be Spring

Mel walked joyously up over the little hill, and struck out across the field to her left. It was a glorious spring day, the sun was shining, robins and sparrows and blue jays were singing happily, and butterflies danced in the morning breeze. She was headed to her special spot, where she would be alone and eat her breakfast in peace. The little basket at her side held an old, plaid blanket, a good book, warm cinnamon buns, slices of strawberries and melons, and fresh, hot coffee in a thermos. It was time for her to greet spring the way she always had, with a breakfast under the old yew tree as soon as it was warm and dry enough. 

Soon the tree was in sight, with a marvelous view of the little town of Verna before it. No one ever came up here. It was always deserted, but she enjoyed the lack of company. She spread the blanket on the ground, put out the food, and flopped down to read her book, slowly munching on the cinnamon rolls and the fruit, and sipping the coffee. 

Time passed. The sun was very warm, and it felt good on her shoulders after winter’s cold. She put her book down and stretched, thinking how perfect this morning had been. “I wish it could always be spring!” she said, out loud. Suddenly she heard a loud crack from deep underground, beneath the tree, which startled her. She looked around curiously for the cause of the noise, but finding none, she picked up her book again, and soon was lost in its tale.

The spring months passed, and before long it was mid-June. Children were let out of school and ran playing around the town. The weather continued to be perfect: the temperatures were not too hot our too cold, the rain fell in early morning or at night, and everyone remarked at how long their daffodils, tulips, and lilacs were lasting. Two more weeks went by. It was now almost July, and people’s daffodils were still blooming. The were gorgeous things, to be sure, but there was some muttering going on, a wave of disbelief and worry was creeping into conversations. Soon it was July.

Mel walked into the post office, to find little knots of people talking about the weather. 

“It’s not right, I tell ya. My apple trees still have their blossoms on ‘em, but not a single apple. It’s just not right!” said Jake, who drove the school bus. 

“Yeah, an’ the water in the lake certainly hasn’t warmed up a bit. It oughta be gettin’ warmer! I’m thinking the Beach Committee is gonna hafta put some serious thought into closing the beach for the summer, til it warms up anyway,” said Marvin. 

“It’s just plain weird. I mean, it’s not global warming, exactly. It’s just staying the same!” stated Amelia. “We should maybe have a special town meeting to see what everyone thinks it is.”

The was general agreement about this. The knots of people had convened in the middle of the post office floor, which was where Mel happened to be. As she was on the library committee, and thus was the closest thing to an actual government representative, they waited for her to say she would start the ball rolling.

“Well,” she said hesitantly, “if you really think that we should, well, I guess I can ask Phil about it ...” 

Everyone thought they really should, so Mel went to Phil, the town manager, and got permission for a special town meeting. Phil thought they should get some research about weather, and Mel was deputized to find what she could about weather systems that could explain the spring-like weather. It seemed that it only went as far as the town line, however. Every town around Verna was gearing up for summer just fine, but Verna was obstinately holding onto its forsythia and its forget-me-nots.  

The news leaked to a few newspapers, people posted pictures of Verna’s profusion of spring blooms on Twitter and Facebook, and soon the Associated Press was in on it. Vans with various news logos pulled up at the two local bed and breakfasts, bristling with antennae. Several doctors of biology and weather functions were seen taking measurements of the air, the water, and photographing the local fauna. The population of the town grew astronomically, and while it was nice at first to have lots of new customers in the stores, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts, after a while no one could keep it up. The town meeting was scheduled for two week’s from Independence Day.

They held the town meeting. Dr. Martin, an expert in weather, said a lot of things, but in the end, he had no idea why it seemed so spring-like. Dr. Marcos, an expert in horticulture, was amazed at everything, but she couldn’t explain it either. A lot of people got up to say it just wasn’t right, but they had no explanation for it. There were lots of questions, but no answers.  

The National Guard kept people out of town now; it had a wall around it, high piles of sand bags and chicken wire, with men with guns pointed at nothing in particular. It was the ultimate tourist attraction ... except you couldn’t get in unless you lived there. The residents of town were issued special passes so they could get in and out of town, and that helped, but they felt increasingly like prisoners. Whenever they left town, people followed them everywhere. Invitations to go on Leno, the Today show, Fox were a dime a dozen, and some took them up on it. Many didn’t. There was a feeling that there was something wrong about the whole thing.

Mel went up to the yew tree regularly to enjoy the air and the sunshine and the birds chirping. Then it got to be autumn, and it was suddenly cloying. She enjoyed the spring, but suddenly she found herself wishing for a little nip in the air. She baked cookies more often, and looked in vain for a bit of fall colors coming into the leaves. She even wished for a snowflake or two. It was hard getting into the spirit of Christmas by humming a carol while apple blossoms decked the branches of nearby trees and fish swam in streams that were clear of ice.

Soon it had been a year. It was spring again, real spring. Mel wished she would never see a spring day again. She was tired of buds and blossoms and warm, but never hot or chilly or cold, weather. She packed a basket with sandwiches and apples and a thermos of tea and went back up to the yew tree. She always wondered why no one ever was seen up there; it seemed to be the perfect spot for a picnic. She spread her blanket and put out the thermos and apples and sandwiches, and plopped down. She hadn’t brought a book to read. She drew her legs up under her and closed her eyes. 

Tears welled up and fell uncontrollably. “I wish it would stop!” she said. “I wish we could go back to being normal!”

There was a shift, a space that hung for a moment in time, and then resumed. She felt it more than anything. It felt right. Mel stood up and ran, down into town. The guards were gone ... no wall surrounded the town, no vans with bristling antennae lurked about parking lots anywhere.

“Mel! You like you’ve seen a ghost! What’s the matter?” Marvin asked, after she bumped into him, spilling his mail on the ground.  

“Oh....ummm, nothing. I was just up on the hill, having a picnic under the yew tree ... nothing’s wrong,” she said, and repeated it because it sounded so good to say it, “Absolutely nothing is wrong!”

Marvin watched her run off in another direction. “That girl’s a bit addled by the nice spring weather we’re having.” He took his cap off and scratched his head. “Everyone knows there’s no yew tree in town.” 


Knitting on Empty

Maldiva glared at the empty glass on the table, and kept knitting. Her hands would hurt tomorrow, but she'd finish this shawl if it killed her. The edging was flying off her needles so fast you could barely see her hands move. She wished she had some Scotch. Better yet, she wished she had a great big chocolate milkshake, or one of those iced things from Dunkin' Donuts. She knit another few stitches and dreamed about it.

The knocking on the door roused her from her choclatey-icy goodness, making her scowl, but she kept on knitting. They'll likely just go away if I am really quiet, she thought. Then she saw some eyes peering in through the window, and finding life, they quickly resumed knocking.

"Maldiva! I know you're in there! Let me in!" Rosie's voice came through the door like a battering ram, making Maldiva flinch. Getting up, she threw open the door and Rosie impatiently brushed past her and flopped on the couch. Maldiva went back to her chair, scooped up her knitting, and resumed knitting.

"Maldiva. They've done it. The harpies have finished Torchon! In two days!!"

Maldiva's hands hesitated, but kept on knitting. "I knew they would. It was just a matter of time," she replied.

For a few minutes, there was only the sound of clicking needles in her hands, the rhythmic sound that was regular and had a certain beat to it. Then Maldiva put her knitting down with a scowl, and said, "Come on."

"Where are we going?" Rosie asked, breathless, but her eyes were shining. Maldiva was going to make lace-knitting history.

"To the yarn store. One of you girls is going to be a hero, and I'm going to coach you. Now come on!"


(photo credit: Raising Homemakers)


Hehe. I'm so bored. Anyone want to finish this story for me? Or at least the next installment? 

Beth picks up her knitting and smiles.

The Things We Forget

Gah. I forgot to knit any charity knitting yesterday. But at least, I didn't do any non-charity knitting either. I just didn't knit yesterday, between Nanowrimo and blog reading and watching the tv coverage of the election. 

Darn this NaNoWriMo, anyway. It sucks up a lot of time. 

The good thing is, I am 259 words ahead of where I have to be for my daily goals (1667 words a day!) and so far my character, who has been pretty much not described at all but for having a name (Amy -- it is quick to type) and a gender (female) and a sort-of age (kid) has adventured her way into an old house and has explored a den, a playroom with a great dollhouse, a library and a planetarium. Now she is hungry and is going to have a picnic with some new and very odd characters tomorrow. Wish her luck. And let me know what the characters are too, I haven't thought of them yet, so if you would just fill me in ahead of time it would save me a lot of time and work. 'K? K. 

Now I shall at least pick up my Snowbird mittens and admire them, although I am not sure how much I will work on them. I think I haven't actually knit a stitch on them for about 4 days, and I am falling dangerously close to the brink of abandonement with them. As amazingly attractive as they were for me before I started working on them, they now lack interest. They're pretty. I think the cuffs are going to be a bit tight. I am sure they will stretch out and be comfortable with time (alpaca is good that way). I'm thinking after I knit one mitten and try it on it might have a tight cuff and a short hand; maybe not. The thumb looks big too.

I should just shut up and knit them, right? Right. Ok. Off I go. 

NaBloPoMo Tool Box


Every time I start a new knitting project (yes I know, about every 5 minutes), I gather what I need to complete it (stop! stop laughing!!!). I gather my tools, my materials... too bad I couldn't gather up the Time Needed for Completion and stuff it in the bag, too, eh?

So I have begun NaBloPoMo.... one post per day, every day, for thirty days. I figure there might come a day, possibly today, when I can't think of anything to in anticipation of this miserable experience of having a no-idea day, I put together a little list of web sites to which I and all my NaBloPoMo fellows can turn and get some ideas to write about:

Beth's NaBloPoMo Get-Your-Butt-in-Gear-and-Write! List:

There. That should help. And look, I seem to have gotten a whole post written today! Yay!

This Is What Happens When I Listen to the Voices in My Head


Alert Demonic Progress readers will remember that one year ago today I was on the brink of starting NaNoWriMo, in which the voices in my head convinced me that yes, it was entirely plausible that I could write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. So, easily led as I am, I threw myself into the task and did indeed construct a 50,000+ grouping of words in 26 days. It could loosely be called a "novel". Mostly I just use it to impress people at cocktail parties... 'Why yes, I wrote my last novel in 26 days, last year as a matter of fact...' Heh heh. That would be if I *went* to any cocktail parties...

So this year I had very wisely decided, after toying dangerously with the idea for a day and a half, that this year I would NOT do NaNoWriMo, NOT try to write 1700 words a day (about 45 minutes to an hour of writing) every day for the whole month of November. Uh uh. Not me. I am too smart to do that again! It's the "every day" bit that gets you, you know... 45 minutes of writing I can toss off pretty handily, after all, having been an English Major (and the crowd goes "ooooh"). But. "Every Day". "EVERY". Not as easy as you might think.

And I almost made it, too. Ah ... no, I am NOT going to do NaNoWriMo (what do you think I am, crazy???).... but just when I thought it was safe, a valued employee (*cough* Tracy *cough) sent me a link to a crazy little scheme called....

(warning --> page linked to has some bad words that begin with "F". Just so you know.)

Hmmmm, National Blog Posting Month.... hmmmmm ..... surely I can post to my blog every day for a month.... hmmmmmmm

Here's the come-on:

What is it?

It's National Blog Posting Month!
Why the hell would I want to do that?

You started a blog to make yourself write more often?

NaBloPoMo is an alternative to November's NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, the program wherein you crank out a novel in thirty days.

Some of us lack the imagination, stamina, and self-destructive impulses required to write a novel that quickly, but, by Grabthar's Hammer, we can update our blogs every day for a month!

Post every day for the month of November. That's it. The deadline for getting your url on the participants list below is, oh, let's say November 1 at 11:59 p.m. Not that I'll be up that late, waiting, but that will be your last chance to get your first day's post in. No cheating and backdating posts, either. You're on your honor.

So here's fair warning. Starting tomorrow, November 1, I shall endeavor not to masticate artificially flavored chicle sap in class... ermmm, sorry, that's what my 8th grade reading teacher made us write 500 times if we got caught chewing gum. No... I shall endeavor to make one blog post each and every day for 30 straight days during the month of November! Yes! And when I am done I shall rule the world!!!

Bloggers of the world! I challenge you! I CHALLENGE YOU, D'YOU HEAR ME? Join me in this quest for thirty-day-dom magnificence and insanity!!! Become one with NaBloPoMo!!!


Happy Halloween everyone!


Coyote's Moon

EDIT -- Several people mentioned to me that they were unsure if I wrote the following story, since I posted it with no introductory statement. So here ya go: I did write the story, about 2 years ago. I held delusions of authorship at the time, thought I might pursue publishing it as a children's book, but ya know? I have no time for that now. So I'm giving the story to you, the masses, the reading public. And it will probably be read more on my blog than it ever would have been if it had gotten published. :) Beth


Once there was a coyote who loved to howl at the moon. He loved the way his voice sounded, and he thought the moon shone a little more brightly when he howled at it.

Mother Coyote tried to get him to do more useful things. “Stop howling at the moon!” she said. “It may be fun, but it will get you nowhere. You need to spend your time hunting for food, getting a mate, and teaching your young coyotes how to hunt. That's what coyotes should do!”

Mother Coyote was usually right about all things, so Coyote stopped howling at the moon as much. He got food, he found a mate, and he taught his young coyotes to hunt. Soon he never howled at the moon anymore, and eventually he forgot all about it.

One night, Coyote couldn't sleep. The moon was shining so brightly that it kept him awake. A strange feeling stirred within him, and he decided to go look more closely at the moon. To get a better view, he climbed to the top of a high hill, and settled down on the rocks where there were no trees or bushes to get in the way. He lifted his eyes higher and higher, until the moon was all he could see. He tilted his head to the side a bit, and gazed as hard as he could. It seemed there was something he wanted to do very badly, but he couldn't remember what. There was a very puzzled expression on his face.

“Hello. Have you come to howl at the moon with me?” a voice said, from the shadows.

Coyote whirled and bared his teeth, but it was only an aged female coyote sitting not far from him, in the shadow of some pines.

“Why aren't you howling?” Old Coyote asked.

“I….used to howl. I haven't done it for a long time. I can't remember how!” Coyote replied. “It seems like a silly, pointless thing to do. It doesn't help me to hunt or to teach the young coyotes,” he added.

Old Coyote just smiled at him. Then she pointed her nose upward, opened her mouth, and howled a long, beautiful howl. She did it again and again. Before he knew it, Coyote had joined in. He remembered his beautiful voice, and he remembered how good it felt to make a lovely noise and send it to the moon. He felt that with every howl he howled, a little of himself flew up to the moon and made it shine a bit more brightly. It felt so good to howl at the moon!

“Will you come and howl with me again?” Old Coyote asked, and Coyote promised that he would.

Night after night, whenever the skies were clear and the moon rose high in the sky, spilling its silvery light, Coyote raced to the top of the hill, and Old Coyote met him there. Old Coyote lived in a small den in the rocks near the hill top, so she could always be near the howling place. Often Coyote brought food to Old Coyote, and she was very grateful. Together the two of them howled at the moon, and the sound of their voices was very beautiful.

“Why do we love to howl at the moon?” Coyote once asked, as they waited for the moon to rise.

“The moon needs us to howl,” Old Coyote responded.

“The moon needs our howls?” Coyote asked. “Why?”

“Haven't you noticed,” she patiently replied, “that the moon shines more brightly when we howl? We make it shine like that. It needs us.”

Coyote thought for a while. It seemed like a great responsibility for just two coyotes, to keep the moon shining for the whole world.

“The moon needs just us two?” he asked. “What would happen if we stopped howling?”

Old Coyote smiled. “Don't worry. The moon needs more than our howls alone, although coyote howls are very important. What do you think the moon is made of, Coyote? Just imagine: the moon is made of all the beautiful sounds in the world. Every lovely sound in the whole world flies right up to the moon, and becomes a part of it. All the sounds join together there and shine with a beautiful, silvery light. So, the moon is made of bird songs, and the tinkling of a pretty little waterfall; it is made of the sound of frog croaks and bees buzzing and rabbit ears twitching; and it is even made of the songs of Man.”

Coyote looked up at the newly-risen moon with a new sense of wonder. He tilted his head and howled as he had never howled before. It was the most beautiful noise he had ever made. He wanted the best part of him to fly through the air and join with the moon.

One night Coyote raced to the top of the hill, and waited for the moon to rise, but Old Coyote never came to join him. He waited a long time, and he howled and howled, but Old Coyote never came. For four nights in a row, Old Coyote did not join him, and he knew she would not join him anymore.

This made Coyote very sad, but he kept coming to the hilltop to howl on moonlit nights. When he looked up at the moon, he knew that its silvery light contained all of Old Coyote's howls. He knew he had a job to do. Coyote howled and howled, to keep the moon shining brightly, and to send a little of himself to the moon to join his old friend.

Many moons went by, and Coyote kept his nightly routine. He grew older, and as time passed Coyote found it harder to run to the top of the hill. His pace slowed to a trot, and then a walk, and finally it was just too difficult to climb up the hill every night. He remembered how, long ago, Old Coyote had always been waiting for him there at the top of the hill when he was young. That night he did not leave the hill, but searched out the den in the rocks where Old Coyote had lived. He stayed on the hilltop for many, many moons, hunting what food he could by day, and howling at the moon by night.

One evening Coyote came late to the howling spot. The moon had been up, spilling a very bright, silvery light for a long time before Coyote woke. He padded softly, slowly toward his place, but suddenly he stopped, in the shadow of some pines. In his favorite howling spot sat a young female coyote, staring up at the moon with a very puzzled expression on her face.

Coyote smiled to himself. He remembered the night long ago, when the moon had kept him awake. Now he had become the old coyote. He cast back into his memory and remembered what Old Coyote had said….

“Hello. Have you come to howl at the moon with me?”

The Search

Here's another story, and this time it does have some knitting content. It is a true story of an event that happened on one of the knitting cruises I did a few years ago; only the names of the places, people, and boats have been changed (actually, very thinly disguised). It's kind of long, 6700 words, so save it for when you have time to read. :) Hope you like it.

The Search

A Saturday twilight filled the September sky as the schooner Josiah Beale ghosted into Sandy Cove. It was the end of another blissful day of the annual Knitting Cruise, and as the resident knitting instructor on board, I was looking forward to a quiet evening, with perhaps some knitting by oil lamps down in the mess room, followed by a quiet drink on deck. As we passed the ledge at the entrance of the cove, Capt. Brenda Miller gave the order to drop the jibs. The deck hands had readied the anchor at the bow, and as the Beale came about, Brenda gave the hand signal to drop the anchor. The chain fell and fell, until finally the anchor hit the bottom with a rattling thump and we were in for the night. Ahead of us lay the lights of Glen Harbor, with the traffic sounds of Route 1 in the distance. To port lay the lights of cottages and houses; to starboard lay a forested shore, and Windameer, the only other schooner in the cove that night. We were at sea, but not too far from civilization.

The anchor had barely settled when a little motor vessel, being driven haphazardly and at far too high a speed, came racing in past the ledges, zipped between the Beale and the Windameer, and headed straight for the rocks ahead. We all watched in horror, sure the movie-like scene would end in a fiery explosion upon the granite rocks, but somehow the daredevil driving the boat managed to swerve about just in time, and zoomed back up the cove toward us. He had turned his lights out when he entered the cove, obviously outrunning, or trying to hide from, somebody. He slowed as he approached the Beale, pulled over close to the shore, and cut the engine.

“What an idiot!” was the consensus among the passengers, who figured it was some kid goofing off. At that moment, the galley crew rang the bell indicating dinner was ready. As I turned to go below, I looked aft over the transom at the view behind us out in the bay. I noticed that there was a long, wide path of light in the darkening northern sky, just above the horizon. Odd, I thought; it didn't seem like Belfast would be close enough to light up the sky like that, but no other town in that direction would be big enough to cause that large a glow. The inviting, spicy aroma of a pork roast helped me dismiss the phenomenon from my mind, and I went to join the feast.

Dinner was wonderful. With full stomachs, and after the day's sun and invigorating sailing, nearly everyone had gone to their bunks by nine o'clock, joking about how tiring their relaxing vacation was. I, however, was damned if I'd go to bed that early, looking forward to the later evening hours when I could be alone on deck, stargazing, with a glass of good scotch in my hand. I sat on deck a while, looking up at the lights around Route 1, listening to the sounds of Rockland, just out of sight, thinking about how weird it was to be so close to such a large town, and yet seem so far away from it. Next to me, the radio crackled softly, bits and pieces of its static-y conversations filling the air. The Coast Guard had been trying all afternoon to make contact with the people aboard a boat called the Puffin, which had run aground near Dead Man's Ledge and at last report was taking on water. They hadn't been heard from since about 3 that afternoon. They must be all right by now, I thought. Bet their day was ruined, though.

Capt. Brenda and Nathaniel, the deck hand, were in the galley, finishing up some wool caps they were knitting I went down to join them. They were just congratulating themselves on their successful completion of some very stylish and warm hats, when Jenny, the first mate, appeared at the top of the companionway, out of breath.

“Brenda, you better get up here. There's a woman yelling on shore, says she needs help, there's someone in the water!”

I never saw anyone go up a companionway as quickly as Brenda did, with Nathaniel close behind. She had gone from giggling knitter to steely-eyed ship captain in a snap, confronting the emergency with no hesitation. As she sped back to the box where flashlights, life preservers, and the radio lay, she yelled orders to Nathaniel and Jenny to start lowering the yawl boat from the davits. They were already racing to comply by the time the words left her lips.

Brenda grabbed a heavy duty flashlight and a pair of binoculars, and rushed to the port side, aft, where in the distance one could hear splashing sounds, a man's voice yelling and swearing, and a woman alternately crying and yelling, “Help! Help! He's in the water!”

“This is Capt. Brenda Miller, of the schooner Josiah Beale. We are sending a boat to you. Just hold on!” she yelled. Then, muttering, “Damn, I wish I hadn't taken that spotlight off the boat last week!”

“What spotlight?” I asked.

“We keep one on board for night sailing,” she said. “I took it off the boat last week because we aren't doing anymore night sailing this year, and the light is huge, it takes up a lot of space. Heh,” she chuckled, “I am definitely leaving it on all season from now on.”

Finally, Brenda found the source of the commotion in the water and played her flashlight on it.

There was, indeed, a man in the water. It was the idiot who had so recklessly driven the boat in earlier. A very distraught blonde woman was on shore, though she looked unsteady on her feet, possibly from too many alcoholic beverages. It was clear that if the man was in danger of drowning, it would be due to drunkenness. He was next to several boats moored near the shore, and there were even a couple of kayaks tied to a mooring line next to him. All he had to do was hang onto the kayaks until he was sober enough to kick his feet and move towards shore.

“Leave me alone! Go away! Get the hell away from me!” cried the man in the water. He was flailing around, clearly unaware of the close proximity of the safety that the kayaks offered. “I don't want any help. Leave me alone!”

“Help him! Help him! He doesn't know what he's saying. He's been drinking!” the blonde insisted, thus becoming the target of a torrent of threatening and abusive curses from her immersed companion.

Whom to believe? It didn't really matter, since probably neither of them should have been anywhere near the water in the state they were in. Jenny and Nate kept lowering the boat.

“Jesus,” Brenda muttered. It was one thing to save someone who was in danger, but quite another to save a person from his own stupidity. It was still her duty, although suddenly it seemed more of a chore than it was before.

The watery, swishing sound of someone rowing a boat caused Brenda to swing the flashlight around in the opposite direction. It was Captain Bob of the Windameer, whose yawl boat had already been in the water from his visit ashore earlier that evening. Upon hearing the sounds of the woman screaming for help, he had climbed down into the boat and was rowing toward the problem. He had a bigger flashlight, and a bull horn. Brenda belayed the order to lower the Beale's yawl boat.

Capt. Bob quickly pulled past the Beale and was soon nearing the man in the water.

“I am Capt. Bob Lancer of the schooner Windameer,” he said into the bull horn. “Do you want assistance?”

All he got back was more foul-mouthed denial from the man in the water, and more hysterical pleas for help from the woman on shore. It was a real pickle. He couldn't just leave the guy in the water, but he didn't relish the thought of trying to pull the man into the yawl boat by himself, either; he'd likely end up in the water with him. He did a little swearing himself, and then took a couple more strokes to come up even with the man in the water. He pushed an oar out to the man.

“Take ahold of my oar, and I'll pull you in!” he ordered.

All it got him was a face full of salt water. The man splashed water at him and flailed off, kicking up even more water into Capt. Bob's face. Bob rowed up next to him, stuck out the oar, and repeated his order to the drowning man, and got more water in the face.

Bob decided to let the man have his way. He rowed back toward the Beale and came along side.

“Evenin', Capt. Brenda,” he greeted her.

“Evening, Capt. Bob,” she replied. “You look a little wet there.”

“Yup,” he said. Then, looking back toward shore, he said, “What an asshole.”

“I know,” she agreed. By now eight or ten passengers had come up on deck, having heard the splashing and swearing and screaming going on. The berths were below decks, and water carried sounds all too well.

“I guess you saw, I tried to help him outta the water, but all he did was splash me and move off a little,” he said. “But that damn woman on shore keeps screaming ….”

“Oh, my God!” one of the women passengers yelled, looking northeast and pointing.

Everyone turned to look, and gasped. Truly, it was an amazing sight. The entire northern sky was on fire. Blazing lime green and red and blue lights, like brilliant flames, filled the sky with huge columns that stretched from the horizon to the apex of the night sky, marching in a stately yet voluptuous fashion from west to east. It was the Northern Lights, larger and more brilliant than I had seen in Maine in forty years. And on a September night, no less. It was always a treat to see Northern Lights, but when you see them on the ocean it's even more beautiful. The huge horizon, free of interfering trees or buildings, offered a magnificent stage for a heavenly show. It was an amazing sight, and even more amazing that no one had noticed it until that moment. The lights were putting on a monumental display, and we had all been ignoring it.

But the two ship captains had to keep ignoring it. They had a “situation” to deal with, whether they wanted it or not.

“What do you want to do?” Brenda asked. “Want us to put a boat in and help you grab him?”

“I'm afraid if you do, he'll just go farther out from shore, and then he'll be in real trouble,” Bob declined. “Plus, with another boat in the water, and with it so dark, there's just more chance of one of us hitting him with a boat, or an oar. No, think I'm gonna call the Coast Guard and see what they say to do.”

Neither Bob nor Brenda was saying so, but it was clear that both of them saw the whole situation as a lawsuit waiting to happen. It could so easily be a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. As business owners, captains of windjammers were all too commonly made the targets of frivolous lawsuits from passengers and other people. As captains, they were bound to give assistance to those in danger at sea. If they tried to save the man and accidentally injured him, they'd be sued; if they didn't try to save him and he died, they could face charges.

Bob climbed back down into his boat and pushed away from the Beale.

“Good luck!” Brenda called.

By now all the passengers were on deck. Those who had come up earlier had rushed down to wake up anyone who was still sleeping below, and get them to come see the aurora borealis. I knew it was truly a once in a lifetime event, something I'd never see again. Soon the whole ship knew about the man in the water and the woman on shore, too; we began to exhibit the behavior of a tennis crowd, alternately looking southwest, to keep an eye on the man in the water, and then wrenching around northeast, to see the Northern Lights. So much excitement! So much to see! Such an unusual cruise this was turning out to be. Chit chat abounded, and there was much congratulating of Brenda for providing a great light show, complete with a drama on the side.

“Quiet! Quiet! There's something on the radio!” cried Ben, one of the older men on board.

There was a brief crackle of static, and then an official-sounding male voice.

“Say again, say again, we didn't quite hear you,” he said. It was the Coast Guard.

“Mayday! Mayday! This is the sailing vessel Puffin! We have run aground …Dead ……edge and are taking on water quickly. There are four people on board, two adults and two children. Please send help immediately! We're sinking!Please, if anyone is hearing this, come and help us!” a frantic voice exclaimed. The radio transmission was unclear, filled with static and often cutting out.

“Say again, say again,” came the calm Coast Guard voice. “What is your position? What is your position?” Apparently, the Coast Guard hadn't been able to hear it well either. The aurora borealis, so brilliantly on display, might prove a deadly beauty for the people on the Puffin. It interfered with radio transmissions.

This brought everyone on the Josiah Beale to a standstill. It was very quiet. It seemed we should do something, but what to do? Help the man in the water? Sail out at night to Dead Man's Ledge, try to find the Puffin and save the family that was sinking? I knew Brenda had taken off the spotlight that she used for night sailing, but I also knew other captains sailed at night without such a light. Yet, windjammer captains couldn't afford to take risks with passengers on board.

In the distance, we all heard Capt. Bob radio the Coast Guard. He had gotten back to Windameer, climbed aboard, and was calling the Rockland station. He had a charter this week; a couple who wanted the whole boat to themselves, so there was no noisy chatter on his decks; we could hear every word he said and every reply from the Coast Guard, if we all kept quiet. It was like listening to a radio play. Meanwhile, we kept cranking our heads around to see if the man in the water was still there, and then snapping our eyes back to the Northern Lights.

“Yeah, I have a person in the water here, but he is refusing assistance from me. There's a woman on shore who says he needs help, but when I get near him he just swims off,” Capt. Bob was saying.

“What is your location?” the Coast Guard voice asked. Capt. Bob gave him the exact location.

“How long has the person been in the water?” asked the Coast Guard.

“Oh, probably about twenty minutes. I've already tried to help him, but he won't listen to me. Can you send someone out to assist me?” Bob asked. It puzzled him, usually the Coast Guard comes right away when informed of a problem.

There was a reply we couldn't hear, an angry retort from Bob, another reply from the Coast Guard, a reply from Bob, and then he signed off. Almost immediately, we heard a cell phone ringing on the Windameer, and Bob answered.

“Yup,” Bob said. Then, after a moment, “Yup, I tried that. No. No, he did not. Yes, his girlfriend asked for assistance.”

“Heh, the Coast Guard doesn't want an audience,” Brenda chuckled. To our puzzled looks, she replied, “Everything you say on the radio goes out over the air and everyone can hear it. Apparently, whatever they're telling Bob, they need a little privacy.”

Meanwhile, Bob was listening to what they were telling him over the phone.

“What? You're kidding, right? That's what you want me to do?” he obviously sounded frustrated. “All right. Yes,” he said. Even from forty yards away, we could hear his heavy sigh.

The radio gave a little crackle. “Mayday! Mayday!” cried the voice. “We have two children here! Please send assistance…”

“Say again, what is your location?” the calm voice of the Coast Guard man had acquired a little bit of an edge to it.

The Northern Lights had turned mostly red and yellow above our heads. The display had dimmed slightly from its previous spectacular intensity, as if unable to compete with the excitement below.

We listened as Bob climbed down into his yawl boat for a second time this evening. This time he brought one of his crew with him. We listened to his progress as he rowed toward us. As he came even with the Beale, Brenda called to him.

“Captain Bob! What's up? Need any help?”

“No,” came his tired reply. “The Coast Guard wants me to row over to that idiot and stay with him, but I'm not supposed to pull him out of the water unless he asks me to or if I think he's in danger of dying.”

“You're kidding. How long do you have to float with him?” Brenda asked. “Is the Coast Guard sending a boat?”

Another sigh came from Capt. Bob. “Nope, they can't send a boat. They've got everyone out looking for that boat sinking around Dead Man's Ledge, or taking on water, anyway. I just have to stay with him until they can send someone, or until he climbs into the boat, or until I think he's dying. Jesus,” he said.

We all watched as he rowed off toward shore. Brenda and Nate turned on the two large flashlights and shone them towards shore. We couldn't see where the man was. The woman was gone, too. It occurred to me that I hadn't heard any splashing or swearing for a while. And the woman who had been so hysterical moments before had suddenly become silent. Capt. Bob and his first mate were playing their flashlights over the waves, looking for the man, but they couldn't find him, either.

We kept looking a long time. The Northern Lights had dimmed and almost disappeared, and one by one the passengers yawned, commented on how late it was, and wandered off to their bunks. I'm not sure exactly when it was that the search for the man in the water turned into a search for a body, and not a man. Despite the hot summer we'd had, Maine's ocean waters were cold. If the man had been in the water all this time, he was surely dead by now; no one could last three hours in the chill water, especially if he were drunk to begin with.

A noise farther out became the focus of all of our flashlight beams. We were just able to catch a glimpse of the blonde in a little rowboat, managing the oars badly, hurriedly pulling around the point. Soon she was out of sight. She appeared to have been alone in the little boat. Why had she stopped calling for help? Why was she leaving so quickly? The answer seemed obvious. Had we witnessed a murder, before our very eyes, under the Northern Lights?

“Mayday, mayday!” squawked the radio suddenly, and then static. “….Puffin…..sinking ….children…..”

“Say again, say again…..” repeated the Coast Guard.

There was nothing we could do, but keep on looking. By now the only people left on deck were Brenda and her crew; Ben; another passenger named John, and I. Ben was a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer, and was finding the excitement quite entertaining. Plus he wanted to be handy in case there was anything he could do to help. That was probably also the reason John stayed on deck; he was currently a firefighter in Boston, but he had been in the Marines and had been a policeman for a while before he'd switched to fighting fires. I, on the other hand, knew I probably couldn't help Brenda, except to give her moral support.

A motor in the distance grew steadily louder, heading in our direction. It was one of the small new, fast boats from the Rockland Coast Guard station. There were four men on board. They drew up next to Windameer and talked briefly with Capt. Bob. The conversation carried over the water, and though we couldn't make out the individual words, it sounded serious. The Coast Guard personnel were, as usual, very no-nonsense. After a bit, Capt. Bob climbed over the side into his yawl boat and rowed over to where he had initially found the man flailing about in the water. He was followed by the Coast Guard boat, it's huge spotlight waving here and there over the water. The spotlight was very bright. The two vessels stopped, and there was more discussion. Then the Coast Guard boat maneuvered about the area, searching with the spotlight, to no avail.

On shore, a car slowly drove down the lane. We watched its headlight glitter through the trees. It stopped at the nearest cottage. Blue lights came on; it was a Maine state trooper. Two tall, uniformed men in distinctive brimmed hats emerged from the car and approached the house. What sounded like a very large dog began barking frantically from within. The troopers knocked, and were admitted.

“What's that all about?” I wondered.

“Dunno,” Nathaniel asked. “Maybe they want to see if the people in the house heard anything. Or something.”

We all waited in anticipation to see if this new action at the house would be worth our attention, ignoring the Coast Guard searching the water. Poor Capt. Bob had returned to Windameer after sitting idly nearby for a while. The radio crackled briefly. A nearly full moon began to rise from behind Islesboro. The Coast Guard boat pulled up near shore and two men got out on shore to look around there.

Farther down the beach, the troopers eventually emerged from the little house, a woman with them. She was tall, with long, dark hair in a braid down her back. The trio made their way down a steep path, flashlights in hand, to the shore. Even in the dark and at some distance, we could tell the woman was distraught. She was crying and anxious, and it was the first time I saw someone who appeared to actually be wringing her hands. She and the troopers began their own search of the shore and woods, as she desperately called a name that sounded like “John”.

“What the heck is she wearing?” Nathaniel asked. The woman seemed to be wearing a long skirt and frilly blouse. She appeared to be barefoot.

“If I were going to be running around on the shore in the dark, and at this time of year, seems like I wouldn't be barefoot in a skirt!” Jenny said.

“Nope,” Brenda said.

“Maybe she just didn't change after she got home from work,” I said. “She seems pretty upset.”

“Still, you'd think she would at least put some shoes on,” Brenda said.

It was interesting, watching from the water as the Coast Guard on the left searched, and the woman and the state troopers on the right searched, growing closer. Neither group could possibly be unaware of the presence of the other, yet they seemed to be studiously avoiding any actual contact with each other. It was kind of weird, actually.

After a while one of the Coast Guard men approached the two troopers and made contact. They stood talking to each other as the woman continued, searching and calling. The other three Coast Guard guys got back in the boat and motored farther up to shore where the woman in the rowboat was last seen, disappearing around the point. They shined their huge spotlight on the shore at that point and revealed for the first time, to us, a small dock, with steps leading up to a tiny little camp under some pines. They brought the boat up to the dock. The two biggest Coast Guard guys got out and went up the steps to the building where they stood outside the door for a while, having a discussion.

“Bet they're flipping a coin to see who has to knock on the door,” Nathaniel joked, and we chuckled.

The winner of the coin toss knocked at the door. There was no answer. He knocked again, and shouted. Again, no answer. There was more quiet discussion. Then they tried the door.

Apparently, it wasn't locked; the two men went into the cabin and we could hear them asking loudly if anyone was there. A few moments later they came out and walked quickly down to the boat. There was more discussion. It seemed no one was in the cabin, alive or dead. The fourth Coast Guard man had rejoined the group after his discussion with the state troopers, who had accompanied the woman in the skirt back to her house, and left. The Coast Guard boat pulled away from the dock and began searching around in the water again.

“The thing is, once the Coast Guard is notified of a person in the water, they can't give up the search until the person, or his body, is found,” Brenda explained. “I think they're probably getting a little ticked. If the guy is still alive, they really want to find him, and if he is still alive and they find him, I wouldn't want to be him. If he's dead….,”her voice trailed off. Living on the coast of Maine, we all knew the story. All too often a fisherman lost his life to the ocean, and weeks or months might pass before a body was ever found, if it were ever found at all. And the currents were strong in this particular cove.

The night drew on, with little result. The radio had become quiet. There was no more word of the Puffin, sinking somewhere in the dark. There was no grisly discovery of a body in the water. The northern lights were long gone. Those of us left on deck had grown tired of small talk. Brenda sent Jenny and Nathaniel to get some sleep, but she stayed on deck herself. The Coast Guard boat moved around the point, out of sight from us, but still continuing its search. The temperature dropped several degrees. I shivered, and it turned into a yawn that became cavernous and continual. As much as I wanted to know the end to this strange story, I had to admit defeat and go to bed.

Back in my bunk, with the wool blanket pulled up around my ears, I listened to the quiet snores of the sleepers in the little cabins around me, and I wondered about the children on the Puffin, taking on water on a ledge in the moonlight. I wondered if they were sharing the current with the body of a rude, drunken swimmer who drove a boat too fast….

A loud noise woke me, but the first impression I had was of cold. I was freezing. The temperature had dropped, and the one wool blanket I had on the bunk just wasn't warm enough. Sleepily I sat up, to grab the second blanket folded neatly at my feet, and was brought swiftly to reality when my head smacked painfully against the overhead, located about eighteen inches above my face. Fully awake now, I realized that I'd been disturbed by the incredibly loud sound of a helicopter that seemed to be hovering over the deck just above me. The sound was so loud that it almost couldn't be heard: it filled the air, it filled my head; it sucked all the sound-space from the air and replaced it. It was all I could hear, which meant that I could hear nothing. It was as loud as total silence, which should have been all that I could hear, below decks in a schooner on Penobscot Bay at 3 a. m.

I guessed the Coast Guard had brought in a helicopter to search for the poor devil in the water. It seemed kind of pointless, though. If he's been in the water this long, he's surely dead by now, I thought. Why don't they just let us all sleep, and find him in the morning?

God, that's heartless, I replied to myself. But man, that helicopter was damned loud. I decided to go up on deck and have a look. I'd never seen a helicopter search and rescue before. Wishing I had packed my flannel pajamas, I decided that the tee shirt and shorts I was sleeping in wouldn't do the job, so I turned on the light and dressed quickly in jeans and a sweatshirt, wool socks and sneakers. As I dressed, I smelled coffee from beyond the forward bulkhead, where the galley was. I reflected briefly on the distraught woman I'd seen on shore, barefoot in her frilly blouse and skirt, calling a man's name. I wondered what the children on the Puffin were wearing. Suddenly I felt very safe and warm, bundled up in warm clothes, on a safe boat and with the promise of a hot beverage before me.

I grabbed my little flashlight and clambered up the companionway. Brenda was on deck; I'm sure she never got any sleep that night. Over our heads the helicopter was meandering through a grid search pattern, its huge spotlight pointed down on the water. Coast Guard personnel in several small boats were on hand as the brilliant circle of the spotlight traced its way across the waves, left, then right, back and forth like a pendulum of light suspended from a giant mosquito against the stars. After a while the helicopter's spotlight moved to the wooded hills that framed the cove, covering the beach, then the next twenty yards into the trees, then the next twenty yards.

It wasn't till then that I noticed that the hill was literally crawling with people.

“Who are all those guys in the woods?” I asked Brenda.

She gave a little laugh. “They've called out just about every emergency personnel in the area to look for this guy. I've seen at least three firetruck crews, two ambulances, and about seven state troopers arrive since midnight. And there are a bunch of National Guard guys in there, too. They haven't found a sign of him yet. Poor bastard.” She turned aft and looked out at a variety of lights in the distance, south, towards the Rockland breakwater. “There are boats looking all over, following the current in case he floated away.”

“I guess there's no hope he's alive,” I said.

“Nope,” she replied. We were both quiet for a while. I shivered.

“There's coffee in the galley if you want some,” Brenda said.

“Thanks,” I said, and went forward and down into the galley. Brenda had fired up the big old wood cookstove and had made a large pot of coffee. She had been cook on the Beale long before she became its owner and captain. I lifted the heavy coffee kettle and poured the steaming liquid into the heavy, white ceramic mugs. The coffee was hot and strong; I took a sip and then cradled the mug in my hands, feeling the heat seep into my fingers as the coffee warmed me from within.

Back on deck, I saw a touch of light had brightened the horizon. Morning was coming. Both the Beale and the Windameer had turned on their anchors, swinging around in the turning of the tide. Now we were facing out toward the sunrise.

“Ever hear who the woman was that came down to the beach?” I asked Brenda.

She shook her head. “No,” she said.

“How about the Puffin? Did it sink?” I didn't ask about the kids on board.

“Haven't heard a thing,” Brenda said. “The radio's been quiet.”

So, I sipped my coffee and watched the stars fade out as the eastern sky grew lighter and pinker. I'd curled up in a comfy spot among the neatly-stowed tarps used to make a roof over the deck for the passengers' convenience in case of rain. The helicopter flew off south eventually, the Coast Guard boats returned to the Rockland station, and the troopers, the firetruck crews, and the ambulance personnel all got back into their vehicles and returned from whence they came. But I never saw them go. I fell asleep on the tarps.

“You're going to get a sunburn,” a voice said.

It was Nathaniel. He was right, the sun was shining right in my face. It was a beautiful day. I got up and stretched and looked around. It was amazing, really; around me was a postcard-perfect picture of a sunny Maine scene. The water was calm, gulls flew lazily in circles above, sailboats bobbed at their moorings around the cove. In the distance a lobster boat revved its motor as it moved along to another set of traps. It was surely a different place from last night, with a boat sinking, a body in the water, and the mysterious northern lights glowing above it all.

A few people were on deck already. I couldn't believe that everyone had slept through the noise the helicopter had made; apparently I was the only one disturbed by it. I went below to my cabin, washed up, and made myself a little more presentable for daylight viewing. And smiling at Nathaniel's comment, I put on some sunblock.

Back on deck, I saw the queue had already formed for breakfast. The chatter was pretty evenly divided between how gorgeous the day was and how delicious the breakfast, and the events of the night before. I looked over at Windameer, and saw movement on her deck too. So, I thought, life goes on as normal. I glanced down into the water, half expecting to see a man floating there. No, not quite normal for everyone, I decided.

After breakfast most of the passengers went back down to their bunks to wash up and get ready for the day, and to do some packing. We would soon head back to the Beale's home dock. The trip was over.

Captain Bob headed towards us in his yawl boat. He wanted to have a chat with Brenda before he raised the anchor and took off. He pulled up next to the starboard davits and reached up to grab the Beale's rail, steadying himself.

“Bob! How's it going?” Brenda greeted him.

“Good, good, Brenda, and you?” he replied.

Their voices lowered and they had a conversation clearly not meant to be overheard. Most passengers wouldn't have heard it anyway, being below decks, and I walked aft to give them some privacy. After a while Capt. Bob went back to the Windameer.

Getting underway always required a bit of energy, and most of the passengers helped: the anchor was raised with a great deal of grunting and pumping, and the sails were raised with a great deal of heaving and tugging, and then the wind caught us. The Beale glided gracefully into the bay like a magnificent swan.

“You've got to tell us, you know,” I said to Brenda, back by the wheel. A group of us were gathered there, waiting to hear the news. “What happened? Did they find the man? What about his girlfriend? Who was the woman in the skirt? And what about the Puffin, did it sink?”

Brenda laughed. “Bob told me as much as he knew, or at least what he overheard. First off, the Puffin is fine. She did take on some water, but never sank. And some guy came along in a lobsterboat and took off everyone on board long before they were in any real danger. Some guys from the North End boatyard went out and towed the boat back for repairs last night.”

Needless to say, everyone was pleased to hear this news. Not knowing about the Puffin and the fate of her occupants had provided an undercurrent of even deeper fear and sadness to the events surrounding the search for the missing, drowning man

“The woman in the skirt was the man in the water's sister. That's her house, where the state troopers went, and apparently the little camp over on the point belongs to her family. Her brother and his girlfriend were staying there, and the sister knew he'd been drinking yesterday. When she heard him yelling in the water, all mad and everything, she was sure either he would drown or he'd drown his girlfriend. Guess they tend to fight a lot. So anyway, his sister freaked and called the police. And at the same time, we had already called in the Coast Guard. And at some point, somebody involved the National Guard - they provided the helicopter and some searchers. But they never found the guy, or his girlfriend. At least, not yet.”

So the mystery was to have no end. In a life where all mysteries on TV ended resolved, one way or another, we all felt a little cheated not to know the end of this one, after having been witness to its unfolding throughout the night. It was unfinished, and unsettling not to know what the ending was.

We reached the dock a couple of hours later, in sunshine and warmth, safe and dry and happy. The Beale's vacationing passengers exchanged their goodbyes with the new friends they'd made on board, and made us locals promise to let them know the fate of the man in the water, if we ever found out what had happened to him. I went home, took a shower, went to bed, and slept for the rest of the day.

A couple of days later I was in the Post Office picking up my mail, and I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while. We chatted a bit, and she introduced me to her nephew, Mark. I hadn't seen him since he was in fifth grade. He had become a grown man, twenty-three years old. He was in the Coast Guard now, stationed in Rockland. It was lucky for him to be able to serve so close to home.

I saw my chance, and pounced on it.

“So, do you remember last Saturday, that guy drowning in Sandy Cove? And there was a big search for him all night long, with state troopers, and firetrucks, and a helicopter?”

A strange expression crossed his face, kind of disgusted and embarrassed and angry, yet amused too. “Oh yeah, that was quite a thing. Sure had us hopping for a while. How'd you hear about it?” he asked.

I explained about having been there on one of the windjammers in the cove. “So, did you ever find the guy? Or his girlfriend?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“Oh sure,” Mark replied. “One of the state troopers finally went to the guy's house, in Rockland. The idiot had just walked home and was passed out in bed, so drunk he hadn't heard the phone ringing off the hook, his sister was calling him all night long to see if he'd gone home. All that searching, all that time, all those people, and he was just home in bed, safe and sound.”

I was glad the rude man had lived through his ordeal, but still I couldn't help thinking, it wasn't the right end for the story. He should have died. There should have been grief and mourning and resignation to the dread power of the sea……

Later, in the local newspaper, I discovered that the search had cost the taxpayers $50,000. So, I guess there'd been a tragedy after all.

Knitting Fiction

Here's a little story I wrote a couple years ago; enjoy!

The Collection

It was a chance comment over the lunch table at work that got Margot and Sharon thinking about taking the trip.
“This canned crabmeat tastes like salty cardboard. I don’t know why I bother,” Margot sighed.
“Mmmm, no problem. Let’s just run up to Maine and grab a couple of fresh lobsters,” said Sharon, around a mouthful of salad. “And while we’re at it, let’s browse through a few antique stores up and down the coast.”
“Right,” Margot laughed. She and Sharon pulled out some knitting and occupied two of several comfy chairs in the employee’s lounge. Five more women joined them, and the room filled with talk of patterns, yarn, and needles. Margot was shy and didn’t make friends easily, but in this knitting group she felt comfortable. Several women looked to her for help and guidance, and she was pleased to give them a hand.
“Margot, maybe that Maine idea isn’t such a bad one. There’s a long weekend coming up. Let’s go!” Sharon exclaimed. “We’ll dig for treasure in the antique shops. We’ll luxuriate in the old-fashioned luxury of the bed-and-breakfasts in the picturesque villages --”
“You’ll stare at the hunky lobstermen, you mean!” giggled one of the younger women. For a moment, each woman’s mind was filled with the image of young men, stripped to the waist, muscles rippling, skin glistening in the sun.....a collective sigh filled the room.
Margot’s brow wrinkled, though she smiled. “Well. I can’t really think of any reason not to....okay, let’s go!”


The drive up was beautiful. They took the scenic route, taking turns driving after every pitstop so the other woman could knit.
“Sharon, I hate to admit it, but this was a great idea. That lobster we ate for lunch was out of this world!” Margot said.
“Absolutely. And the blueberry cheesecake was yummy, too,” Sharon sighed. She squinted a bit at the sock she was working on. It was just plain stockinette stitch, boring, but excellent for a car ride. The variegated colors of the soft merino and cashmere blend yarn made the simple knit more interesting.
“What’s that up ahead? Does that sign say ‘Antiques’?” Sharon asked, excited.
“I believe it does, right under ‘Homemade Fudge’ and ‘Bait’. We’re stopping!” Margot replied, and pulled into the parking lot.
The shop was small and a bit shabby, but some attempts had been made to spruce it up for the tourist season. Inside, it took a while for one’s eyes to adjust from bright sunlight to the somewhat dim lighting of the store. The refrigerated cases of soda, beer and sandwiches were new, as was the gaudy lottery-ticket display with its flashing lights. But the penny-candy counter, woodstove, pressed tin ceiling, and uneven wood floor were all original, Margot thought.
As they went in, they smiled at the woman behind the counter, inquired about antiques, and were shown to the back of the store. Sharon eagerly went to a large and dangerously tilted set of shelves and began scanning the old books. Margot was drawn to a big table in the corner, labeled “Flea Market”. It was piled high with junk.
She was smiling to herself at one of the treasures here, an avocado fondue pot circa 1978; turning to get Sharon’s attention, she noticed in the far corner of the table a lumpy, dusty bag with wooden handles. The handles looked hand-carved, and the textile used for the bag was possibly hand-woven, in an unusual pattern. She reached out and pulled the bag toward the front of the table.
“Like old stuff, do ya?” a querulous voice said behind her. Margot turned quickly, and faced an elderly gentleman holding a folded newspaper in one hand and a pencil in the other. He’d been working on the crossword puzzle. He wore an eye patch over his left eye, and a sleepy cat was draped around his neck. Margot thought about pointing out that a parrot would create a better pirate effect, but kept the thought to herself.
“Um, yes. This bag just caught my eye,”she said, nervously. He had surprised her. Cautiously, she opened the bag and gasped as she saw its contents: a treasure of old knitting needles! She pulled them out on the table. There were a lot of the typical aluminum needles found in every knitter’s collection. These she could share with her knitting group at work -- the younger girls, especially, were always needing to “borrow” needle sizes they didn’t have. But the collection also included other finds: handcrafted wooden needles, plastic needles with brightly colored knobs, sets of steel double pointed needles so fine they looked dangerous to knit with. There were several sets of needles whose brands she didn’t recognize, and she thought she knew them all.
As she gently examined them, stroking them lovingly, she thought, I wish I could know the knitters who used these needles over the years. What did they create with them? Whom did they knit for? What were they feeling as they employed these tools, and did knitting help them get through unhappiness? or celebrate joy?
“Okay, if that’s what you want,” the old man chuckled, which was odd, since she hadn’t said anything. She turned to ask what he meant, but he wasn’t there. Her scalp prickled, and a feeling she recognized from years ago crept and hissed around the edges of her consciousness. Silly, she thought, and shook it off. Don’t be alone....
“Sharon!” Margot cried, and heard a loud sneeze from the book shelf area.
“Okay! I’m ready to go!” Sharon said, sure that’s what was on Margot’s mind. Sharon tended to lose track of time while looking at old books.
“All right,” Margot replied, curious that Sharon was ready to go so soon, but glad, because the old man’s disappearance had unnerved her. She stuffed the needles back in the bag and took it up to the counter.
“Let’s see,”the woman who had smiled when they came in fumbled with the bag and found a faded, handwritten price tag dangling off the handle, “that’ll be $7.00.”
Margot paid, thinking the woman would have gotten a lot more for it at an online auction site. The bag itself was gorgeous. Feeling guilty about getting such a good deal, she wanted to give the woman a compliment, at least.
“That’s a beautiful cat you have back there. Is it a Maine coon cat?” she asked. “The man carrying the cat disappeared before I could ask him.”
The woman looked puzzled.
“The elderly man with the eye patch, with the cat around his neck,” Margot tried to clarify it for her.
“Dunno. Got no cat, and no man, neither. Sorry!” The woman looked at Margot in a less than approving manner, reserved for tourists who ask ridiculous questions.
“My mistake, sorry...” Margot mumbled, and walked quickly to the car as Sharon paid for the books she had chosen.


The rest of the trip passed too quickly. They ate lots of lobster, reveled in the beauty of the sea, pawed through innumerable antique stores and flea markets, and finally returned to daily life back home. Margot found that her septic system had experienced “problems” while she was away. In the hectic rush to get the problems fixed, it was a couple of weeks before she thought again of the bag with its needle collection, and the mystery of the one-eyed man.
The next Saturday afternoon she dug out the bag, emptied it of the needles, and carefully hand washed it. No mystery there; it was just a beautiful but dirty bag, now significantly cleaner. She lightly sanded the wooden handles, well-worn but sturdy, and gave them a coat of tung oil. Then she turned to the needles and washed each of them. They were all in pretty good condition, actually. Some of the plastic needles had slightly discolored spots, but that wouldn’t interfere with their use. She had expected to find rust on the metal needles, and the steel needle sets did in fact need a little work with steel wool. As she worked, a joke fermented in her mind, about using steel wool on steel needles, but didn’t form completely.
After she fortified herself with a fresh cup of tea, she laid out the needles on the coffee table as a prelude to deciding which sets to keep in her collection, and which to offer to the knitting group. Several wooden and plastic needles were bent slightly, from use. That got her thinking again about the previous owners of the needles. What kind of people were they? What had they knit with these needles? She picked up one set of wooden needles that were surely hand made, with cleverly carved knobs. They felt warm, as if someone had just set them down before she picked them up. She stroked them gently. Tell me what you know, she thought......

.....and suddenly, she was there. But not there. She was the woman holding the needles, not Margot, but she was Margot too. She was in a small, dark room, lit by oil lamps and a soft glow from the door of the woodstove. She sat in a large, comfortable rocking chair, and through the window she saw snow falling thickly and silently. Her son, a toddler now, played with his wooden toys on a braided rug next to her. An newly-baked apple pie scented the air. A man, back turned to her, was tuning a fiddle. He turned, and his eyes were filled with love. She knew her eyes reflected the same feeling. Her mind filled with memories of hours upon hours of winter evenings, knitting away as the snow fell and her Irish carpenter husband played lively jigs to amuse his little family. She always told him she could knit a hundred times faster when he fiddled a wild tune. The soft brown wool, hand spun on the wheel in the corner, danced along in time with the music. It was so comfortable, and happy, this memory....

.....smiling, Margot came to her senses and shook herself. Not again, she thought. These visions had stopped when she grew out of her teens; she hated them. They made her different. When she was very young, and didn’t know better, she tried to talk about them, tell people what she had seen. But her father just slapped her, and when she tried to ask her mother what the visions were, all she got was tears in reply. But now it was happening again.

Margot gazed at the needle collection again, though with some trepidation. She knew darn well she should stop now, put everything away. That first vision had been short, and happy, and she knew that what she might see could just as easily tear her apart, but those fine steel needles intrigued her. They looked very old, and one of them was curved from the tight or long-term grip of a knitter. She picked up this needle, which was cold..... was dark, dark, with bright flashes of light and loud, terrifying noise, so loud she screamed. Artillery! and the popping sound was gunfire! And fear was all around her, men screamed and scrambled and swore. The explosions and screams went on and on and she couldn’t tell if the warm wetness in her eyes and on her face was rain, or tears, or smelled like blood. Her hands, scrambled in the mud, encountered a hand, but horrified her as she felt it end abruptly halfway up the forearm. As she half-stood, flinging it away from her, a sharp, fiery pain sliced through her hip, and something hit her head, hard. Then all was dark, and quiet, for a long time, until slowly, slowly, light filtered in, sunlight in a quiet white room. A pretty nurse stood near her.
“How’s the knitting going, honey?” she asked.
Margot was surprised by the deepness of her own voice as she replied her knitting was fine, but she was even more disturbed by the second part of the reply, “I guess I could knit better if you came over here and gave me a little kiss, darlin’.”
Then she realized she was a man......and despite her confusion, her head filled with a stranger’s memories again. There had been a battle, and he was badly wounded. Margot felt his desperation of knowing he wasn’t going back to the fight, but knowing also his buddies were there. There was no way to get back, to help them, to make a difference in this damned war. Laid up, useless. Frustration, depression ... dark hours that didn’t help the healing process much. And then that pushed-to-the-edge pretty nurse taught him to knit.
“You wanna help the war, soldier? Want to make yourself useful? Here. You’re gonna knit bandages. Lord knows we need ‘em....” Memories followed, hours of knitting, and other guys that were wounded too joined him in knitting bandages. At least it was something.....he thought how happy his mother would be to see him knitting, after all the years he played with his little wooden toys on the braided rug at her side. Knitting was therapy, and he and the other guys could talk, eyes on their needles. Sometimes it’s just easier to talk about stuff that is too much of a nightmare to see reflected in another man’s eyes, but you gotta talk about it. You gotta get it out.....

......Margot shivered. That poignant vision took longer to leave her mind. Why, she thought. Why these visions? Why now? It all went back to that old man in the store. Enough, she thought. Time to get these needles sorted and set the keepers aside, to put back in the bag when it was dry. She found a box to be their temporary home, and started wrapping each set in tissue and laying them carefully in the box.
The last set were a pair of bamboo needles, about a size 3 or 4, she guessed. There was really nothing very unusual about them, but she just liked them, with their smooth, polished shafts that belied lots of use, and the perky round wooden knobs on the ends. And when she picked them up, she felt such joy, she knew she had to keep them. I wonder, she thought, and tickled a spot under her chin with the knob of one needle...

...instantly, in her mind, she was knitting, quickly and joyously. Quickly, because time was running out, and joyously, because the garment was nearly done! She held it up to examine it, and realized it was an intricate, full-length lace bridal veil....for..for her daughter. Ah yes, and it was special, for the wool had been hand spun from the fleece of island sheep, renowned for the lustrous purity of their clean, white coats. Her own mother, the bride’s grandmother, had spun the cobweb weight yarn, the finest yarn that you would ever see. She thought of the veil she’d worn at her own wedding, hand knit like this one. She hadn’t planned to give up nursing, but it was during the war, and there was this one handsome soldier...her mother had been so pleased. Her daughter’s veil, she knew, would pass the knitter’s test and easily slide through the bride’s wedding ring. The lace pattern she had devised incorporated motifs that wished the couple happiness: hearts, for love; eggs, for fertility; ships, for wealth; mountains, for longevity; oak trees, for patience, and one she added on a whimsy: cats, for curiosity. Every good married couple should have a sense of curiosity, about each other and the world they lived in, she thought.....

....Margot laughed out loud, and the vision left her. She finished wrapping the bamboo needles and set them in the box. Then she took a sip of tea, leaned back on the couch, and put her feet up. Sometime, she thought, I’ll see what the needles say about the rest of that family. What will my needles show of me, she reflected, when some traveler finds them on the flea market table? She closed her eyes, and an elderly man’s voice, chuckling softly, filled her dreams.

A Dicey Proposition

 Some knitters find math to be scary; others find it fun. I'm of the "find it fun" camp. I have always viewed math problems as puzzles to solve or as riddles to answer. And lately, I've been exulting in the use of math as a creative tool in knitting.

Once Lucy Neatby gave a workshop in the area, which one of the people in my knitting group attended. This knitter then brought all the excitement from the workshop into our knitting circle. Her enthusiasm had the effect of a stone dropped into a pond; the creative ripples spread farther and farther out among the knitting network. As a result, Lucy's beautiful "Cables After Whiskey" pattern came up in conversation. This adventurous sweater pattern uses random number generation to create a unique sequence of cable twists. I think you could knit it a million times and never get the same sweater twice.

 I got to thinking about random numbers, how they could be generated, and how they could be used in knitting. I'm a little geeky; I dabble in computers a bit due to my fascination with puzzles, and you could use a computer to create random numbers that could then apply to knitting. In the absence of a computer program, you could use sets of dice. (Actually, if you’re on a Mac and have Tiger, there’s a rilly, rilly cool Widget that will flip coins or roll dice for ya.) Most game or toy shops offer sets of dice that have different numbers of sides. For example, you might have a traditional 6-sided die as well as a 4-sided die, an 8-sided die, and a 12-sided die in a set of gaming dice.

 You can use these dice to generate random numbers, and these random numbers can create a scarf pattern to help you get rid of some of those odds and ends of yarn that we all tend to accumulate. Or, maybe you tend to buy individual skeins that appeal to you, without really knowing what you’ll use them for, and before you know it, you’ve got a lot of them. Most knitters yearn for projects that not only reduce one's yarn stash, but also are quick and mindless, yet interesting. Use a set of dice to throw a bit of mystery into a really simple pattern, and this random number scarf project might just fascinate you until you realize – all the yarn is gone!

 Here's what you do: pick a 16" circular needle in a size that works pretty well with the yarns in your leftover-yarn bin. Gauge isn’t important for a scarf. Pick a yarn, and cast on enough stitches to enable you to join the stitches into a circle. Now, divide your leftover yarn into a number of little piles, based on some aspect: color, texture, weight, the years in which you purchased them, the people for whom you originally knit the garments, whatever. You decide what the categories are. Don’t worry about how the yarns will look together; the whole point is that they don’t go together. The stranger the combinations, the better. The number of categories is up to you, but you need to have a die with a number of sides equal to the number of categories you create; or, create the number of categories equal to the number of sides on your die. For example, if you have a 6-sided die, then create six little piles of yarn. Finally, assign a number to each category of yarn. Thus, if your little piles of yarn are arranged by texture, then perhaps  smooth yarn is 1; nubby yarn is 2, fuzzy yarn is 3, and so on.

 Now comes the mystery! Roll the die to see what category of yarn will be used next. Let's say you roll a 3, so you'll use fuzzy yarn, based on our example. Then roll the die again to see how many rounds to knit before changing to another yarn. If you roll a 6, then knit merrily along for six rounds. Roll the die again to see what yarn category to pick from next, and roll again to see how many rounds to knit. If you want to maintain control over some aspect of the pattern, you may want to knit each color the same number of rounds each time, or you may make up a pattern sequence that you repeat forever, like 2 rounds, 4 rounds, 2 rounds, 6 rounds, repeat. It's totally up to you! Continue until you either run out of yarn leftovers or lose interest in the project; bind off, sew up the ends (or just fringe them) and voilá, a tube scarf in a bunch of groovy colors! No need to weave in the ends, just tie them securely and leave them safely hidden inside the tube.

 Perhaps you have had enough of scarf-knitting. You're in luck! This random number knitting could easily be adapted to any tubular knit, such as bags, socks, hats, mittens, or sweaters knit in the round. Knit a baby blanket in the round, steek it, and crochet a pretty edging. You can, of course, knit random numbers back and forth on two needles, but knitting in the round appeals to those of us trying to focus on mindless knitting-with-no-purling. Go nuts, knit whatever you want! If you're truly adventurous, take your dice and your knitting out in public somewhere and start rolling and stitching. Even better, get a whole group of knitters to sit around in a bar or on the beach, taking turns rolling the dice and knitting the resulting colors and rounds. To non-knitters, it will look like a great game, or some esoteric rite. Make up a good story about gambling, or ancient Celtic fortunetelling practices. Who knows, maybe you'll start a new knitting rumor that will become "fact" fifty years from now. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get a few more non-knitters hooked on knitting, 'cause it looks like so darned much fun!

Sonnet 130

My customer’s sighs bring clouds that blot the sun;
Her knitting’s seeming errors pain her head;
She comes to me for help: “See what I’ve done!”
(She hadn’t swatched her gauge as I had said.)
She hung her head, and tears she sought to fight.
“No fear!” I said. “Your problem won’t take weeks
To fix at all! I soon will make it right!”
The knitter’s found the respite that she seeks.
My fingers fly; they know just how to go,
And soon the problem’s fixed, the knitting’s sound.
The knitter has stopped making sighs of woe;
Her love of knitting will once more abound.
She buys more yarn and leaves walking on air,
Knowing that the yarn shop ladies care.