Musings on knitting, crochet, and a fairly loopy life.

Friday, April 30, 2010

mighty, mighty, mighty

Gevurah (Might) (also called Din [Judgment]) counterbalances Hesed (Lovingkindness). It is the side of the Divine most familiar to those with a superficial understanding of the Old Testament, the wrathful God of awful punishments. But as in other world religions, Divine attributes that may seem harmful are not necessarily negative once you understand their true function. Without Gevurah, the world would be so overwhelmed by God's love that it would be reabsorbed into the Divine; without Hesed, God's judgment would unleash forces of destruction on the world.
The seeds of the "Other Side" (Sitra Akhra), or demonic forces of evil are found in Gevurah, as well; the Zohar teaches that an excess of Gevurah is the source of Ultimate Evil. It is the balance of Justice and Mercy evoked repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible, that is the key to the world's thriving. And that balance, necessary in the Divine realm, is also essential in human endeavor. 

This balance of love and might, of strength and compassion, of destruction and rebuilding is understood by many world religions.  This concept is exactly what yin/yang expresses. It is the constant balancing act between good and evil in Christianity. The Hindu religion expresses this balance via different deities. Contrary to popular Western belief, these deities are not "individual gods." They are, rather, different representations of particular aspects of the one god, the source, known as Brahman. The "human" or physical representation of Brahman's aspects or attributes in the form of deities is a vehicle for the devotee to focus his or her attention, devotion or meditation on that particular aspect or attribute in a form more easily visualized and held in the mind.

For instance, the goddess Durga symbolizes the violent and destructive qualities of the loving Mother Goddess (Shakti). However, Durga protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger and ego.
Gevurah is associated with Elohim as the name of God. Its color is red. (Notice, please the color of Durga's robes. Think, also of the traditional color associated with the Devil in Christian thought. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. But definitely something to think about.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

a bit of kabbalah

The Jewish calendar is currently in a period known as "Counting of the Omer." According to Exodus, after the Jews left Egypt, it took 49 days before they reached Mount Sinai where they received the Torah. To commemorate this journey, Jews begin counting the days and weeks of the Omer beginning on the second night of Passover: "Today is one day to the Omer"; "Today is two days to the Omer"; "Today is seven days, which are one week to the Omer"; and so on until they reach "Today is forty-nine days, which are seven weeks to the Omer."

The medieval kabbalists explained that those 49 days (which connect the holidays of Passover and Shavuot) correspond to the forty-nine traits of the human heart. Each year this inner journey is retraced during the counting of the Omer. Shavuot, which literally means "Weeks" is the culmination of this count.

Another way of defining these weeks is by exploring the attributes of the Almighty. The kabbalists believed that God's entire self could not be understood, but God has revealed nine attributes of the Divine Self that interact with each other and the world. These are known as sefirot. Each sefirah  represents one aspect of the Godhead, a facet of the powers of the All Powerful. Each sefirah is also identified with a part of the human body, an aspect of the human personality, a color, and one of the biblical names of the Holy One. 

This year, I'm meditating on the attributes of the Divine by crocheting a 6"x6" square for each week of the Omer; each square will correspond to one sefirot via color.

It's now the 4th week of the Omer, so I'm going to play catch up over the next few days. The first week of the Omer corresponded to the sefirah of Hesed (Lovingkindness). Hesed represents the generous, benevolent side of God, the quality of unconditional Divine Love. Hesed is often translated in this context as "love," "compassion," or "grace." Hesed is associated with the Divine name El or El Elyon (Supreme God). Hesed's color is white.

Here is my square for Hesed (Lovingkindness):
When my seven squares are complete, I will be mailing them to a Ravelry friend who will then forward them to For the Children of Pine Ridge. This group will piece them into warm blankets to be distributed at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

h is for happy birthday

This is my first ABC-Along post that is completely unrelated to knitting. The group's rules are that the photos don't need to be fiber-related, but should be of importance to you. Can't think of anything more important to me than my kids.

Yesterday, my baby turned 4. I guess he's not really a baby anymore, but I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around that. He's my baby, and that's enough for me.

To celebrate his day, Seth had his first school birthday party ... sprinkle-covered cupcakes and party favors for 20. I wasn't there, but his teacher will be giving me copies of her photos. Last night, we had most of my local family over for cake and presents. If a little part of me felt guilty for not having a "real" birthday party outside of school, I got over it really quickly. Seth was ecstatic over the balloons, the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, all the cards (and money!!!) from out-of-town relatives and the really cool presents. Four kids in my apartment was way more than enough (and actually I've heard that the perfect size for a party is as many kids as your child's age).

So, well done for us, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SETHLET!

Monday, April 26, 2010

a sweet treat

My first year of high school I was madly in love with a boy named Robert. Robert was tall and lanky, had big brown eyes, and long, shiny hair. He was smart, he was funny, he was idealistic, and he was creative.  But he was also shy. Really shy. Boy, was he shy. He was so shy, that he was completely oblivious to my affections.

Fast forward 30 years. I've long since lost touch with Robert, and in fact, all my high school friends. Then along comes this amazing tool: Facebook. I join, and all of a sudden, I can surround myself virtually with people who remember me when I too, was young, creative, idealistic and kind of shy. And one of the people who pops up is Robert. He's now happily married, and living in Australia. Australia!
When Robert first friended me, he wasn't sure that I'd remember him. But come on, who forgets their first crush? This far removed from high school, I had no trouble telling him so. And he said he wished he'd realized back in high school how I felt, and that he hadn't been so shy. Which even 30 years later, is a nice little boost for my ego.

Now here's the fun part. Back in February, another FB friend and I were bemoaning the fact that neither of our husbands had gifted us with chocolates on Valentine's Day. Sweet Robert, from all the way in Australia, offered to send us some of Oz's best chocolates (which, he claimed, are vastly superior to America's). For Anna, it's a way to jokingly make her husband sit up and take notice. For me, he said, it's a gift 30 years overdue to the first girl whom he knows had a crush on him.
The chocolates arrived in New York this week. And I'm not sure if they're superior to what we have here in the States, but they were pretty wonderful. I, being a loving wife, shared mine with my husband, which strikes me as ever so slightly perverse. Chocolates from my first love (even if it was unrequited), decades later, shared with my current love ... there is something the tiniest bit twisty about that. But then again that's how I like my life best: a little bit sweet, a little bit twisted.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

one hell of a hiatus

Wow ... I can't believe how long it's been since I posted to my blog. Time just sort of slipped by me there, and all of a sudden, TWO AND A HALF WEEKS have passed. How did that happen?

What was I doing all this time? Well, for the first week at least, I was just floating along, practicing my happy-for-no-reason lifestyle. But then I lost my place in the book, and forgot to think about the little things that were making me happy, and all of a sudden, I'm back to cynical little me. (Time to start reading again, maybe.)

This past week, I was knitting furiously to finish up my gifts for my stashbuster swap buddy. Everything got completed today, and hooray, hooray! It's going out in the mail tomorrow. Jenny in Mechanicsville, MD will be receiving a lacy spring scarf that I knit from 100% corn yarn (you can't believe how soft the stuff is!), and a crocheted cotton clutch bag (try saying that 10 times fast) that I lined with a bright summery fabric.

Here's a pic of the scarf:
Here's the bag:

and its lining:

Jenny sent me a felted needle roll with cables to hold the needles, two skeins of wool (one is the softest wool I have ever felt in my life), and assorted knitting odds and ends.
Here's what the knitting needle case looks like when it's all rolled up:
Can't wait to fill it with my knitting needles. I'm thinking that this case will be for my wooden needles, and the tapestry case I've been using will house my metal and plastic ones. (I know, I know ... how many knitting needles does one girl need? In my case, a whole lot.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

happy, happy, joy, joy

I've been reading a book I borrowed from younger sis, called Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff (coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul).
I opened it up wanting to get the secret to being happy, but honestly skeptical that I would actually gain anything from it.

I'm glad to say, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Today I tried two suggestions in the book, just for a lark. Suggestion one was to try not to complain today. Suggestion two was to be be aware of the things that gave me pleasure during the day: to be truly aware for a good 30 seconds as it was happening. I mean, even if these things didn't work, they were hardly going to harm me, right?

I got through the entire day with only two complaints, and when I heard myself kvetching, I was able to catch myself immediately and stop. And the things that gave me pleasure? I was so aware of them throughout the day. I wrote them in a journal when I got home and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had filled an entire page. Little things, like the smell of freshly baked pastries in Osterman's Bakery; watching my kids play "bumper cars" on the slide after school; waking up early enough to not have to rush our morning routine.

And from these little changes, the oddest thing happened. By early evening, I found myself walking around with a smile on my face, for no reason at all. I found myself speaking more lovingly to my kids, and actually listening to my husband with interest when he told me about his day. And the feeling in my house tonight is so much more positive than usual. You know the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Well it seems that if Mama's happy, everybody else feels more happy too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

farmisht, farshimmelt and farblongid

Three Yiddish words meaning confused, befuddled, completely lost. If knitting is a barometer of one's state of mind, those words describe me completely. I'm all over the place, juggling too many to-do's, and accomplishing little or nothing on each.

I've got five different knitting or crocheting projects in process right now.

There's my Master Knitter course. I've completed all my swatches, but only have 2 of the 15 blocked. I haven't finished answering the questions, and I haven't begun knitting the hat for it.

There's my 2010 Afghan Knit Along. I guess that one's moving at the speed it's meant to ... one to two blocks per month. I have April's primary block knit, but not blocked, and I'm trying to decide whether to knit the second, optional block for this month as well.

There's this cabled bag that I'm designing myself - as I go. I started it three times before I finally came up with a pleasing design that's also engineered correctly.

There is a 7-square project I'm crocheting: one square for each week during which the Torah instructs Jews to count the "omer." Each week during the sefirot (count), one of God's seven defined attributes is explored, with each day within the week also exploring how one of the seven fits into the week's attribute. The Kabbalah designates a part of the body, a word, and a color to each attribute. Last week's attribute was Chesed, or Lovingkindness. It's color is white. This week is Binah (Might), which is supposed to be red. I don't have any red yarn. When I finish the squares, I'm mailing them to a Ravelry friend who is going to send them to the Children of Pine Ridge group, where they'll be joined into afghans and sent on to kids in need.

Finally, there's a spring/summer scarf I'm knitting for a Stashbuster Swap. This project is moving along slower than sludge. It's really pretty, but I'm just not enjoying working with the yarn, so I keep avoiding it. But this one is time-sensitive (as are the Omer squares), and I've got to get two projects prepared for the swap.

I flit from project to project like a bee in a patch of clover, finishing a row here, a square there, but not really completing anything. I'm unfocused and scattered. It's knitting ADD, but it's really just a symptom of my life in general these days.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

favorite (fictional) knitters, part III

Cartoon by Alec Longstreth

Anyone who's read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies knows Hermione Granger. She's the muggle-born witch who is easily the smartest student in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hermione is studious and quick-witted, and as part of the heroic triad in the series, she bears her fair share of battling evil. 

But if your only experience of Harry Potter is through the films, you won't know anything about Hermione's revolutionary side, or her use of knitting to battle social injustice. Unfortunately, that storyline was eliminated from the movies.

To give some background, Dobby the house-elf is introduced in Book 2 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). House-elves are essentially slaves – they will serve one family for a long part of their life, and they feel that this is right and proper, that this is what they were created to do. House-elves can be freed; giving a house-elf clothes frees it from its situation. Most house-elves, however, do not want to be freed, and resist the suggestion most strongly.

In Book 4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), we are informed that hundreds of house-elves live at Hogwarts, cooking for feasts, cleaning, and doing other chores. Hermione is outraged that Hogwarts would condone slavery, and she creates an organization: the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), which is met with overall indifference from her fellow students.

In Book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Hermione takes it upon herself to free as many house-elves as possible. In addition to keeping up with her studies, acting as a Gryffindor prefect, and forming "Dumbledore's Army" to fight evil, Hermione spends her free time knitting hats and socks. She leaves these lying around Gryffindor Tower, hoping to free some unsuspecting elf who picks them up while cleaning the common room, and so grant them freedom. The house-elves don't appreciate this gesture; on the contrary, they take it as an insult and refuse to clean the common room, with the exception of Dobby.

Dobby Dons Hermione's Hats by acciobrain

While Hermione's fight to free house-elves is to no avail during her Hogwarts years, J.K. Rowling does write that as an adult, Hermione goes to work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and works successfully to improve the lives of house-elves.

And so, I present to you Hermione Granger: genius, loyal friend, freedom-fighter ... knitter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

april fools' knitting pranks

I've been researching the history of knitting as it was used in April Fools Day pranks, and have uncovered these amusing facts:

  • In 18th century England, April 1st was the day that young women would select which beau they wanted to court them that season. They would gift each of their potential suitors with a sweater; the men they were interested in would receive a perfectly fine sweater, but the spurned ones were given a sweater with sleeves that were much too long for their arms.
  • Scandinavian women in the 17th and 18th centuries knit humorous (and sometimes very raunchy) verses into knit caps that they would give their husbands on April 1st.
  • Marie Antoinette was particularly mean-spirited, and was rumored to have given Louis XVI a sweater whose sleeves were sewn together as an April Fools' gift.
  • Knitting as an April Fools' prank was banned by the Pilgrims, with the reason that "the labour of our industrious goodwyves' hands muste not be spente on frivolity and idle sinfulness."
Hope you found these tidbits entertaining, because not a single one of them is true!
Happy April Fools Day!