Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Something Something Disonnace

Now that we are back to Level 1, I shall try to revisit a difficult post I worked on for days and then deleted. I'm rambling, forgive me, because the fact I could not stay with any train of thought is one of the reasons I couldn't finish the post, or do much of anything that required thinking. But for what it's worth... 
 
For years I read the weather/climate affects mental health. I never bought this and was never bothered by bad weather; because Nelson tends to be sunny, warm and dry so many days of the year, I welcomed rainy days for a change. In the last few years, though, I've seen more dark, gray days I don't remember having previously, and about Days Four of those stretches, I felt my spirits wane.
 
With spring arriving, we have more days with strong sun and I've had headaches even when I stayed inside. That itself is an annual spring thing for me, but I was feeling so flat consistently I began to wonder if mild-to-moderate depression was returning. The definitive argument against this was I wasn't doing Jacinda's East Coast Wave, the thing I do with my eyes and chin that usually tells me it's time to get serious.

Besides thinking, I had a hard time reading, designing, (I have three more T-shirts to dye,) thinking of weaving or weaving, drawing, cleaning the house, or getting ready to go into the garden. On the other hand I didn't have to think too hard to knit, weed once I was outside but not planing, laundry/ironing, or do anything in the kitchen. I don't know what these mean, but at the time it didn't feel as simple as menial vs thinking tasks. 

One of the hardest issues, even though, (or because?) we didn't go outside our boundaries much, was the rules of Alert Level 2 vs the way humans were behaving in Nelson. Social distancing was seen only on posters and floor markings in public places. I'd be lucky to see one person with a mask on every outing, to the point once even we forgot to bring ours. 
 
We want to do the right thing, and we don't want to get sick, but by the same token we didn't want to virtue signal, and ended up needing a serious discussion in the carpark of a supermarket on Sunday. In the end, we took off our masks and stuck it in our pockets before going inside the store. Although the poster said' "One person, One trolley," which we interpreted to mean only one shopper from a family/group, we both went in because, I hate to admit, because everybody else was doing it. For this reason, I referred to go to our second favorite supermarket during lockdowns where the rules are somewhat more closely followed. All week, I kept looking up cognitive dissonance but I didn't have the patience to finish reading even a Wiki entry. 

As a Japanese who grew up with famously strict parents, who went to a Catholic convent school for 10 years, who tends to error on the side of caution on many issues, who hasn't got a problem following rules even when she disagrees when such things as a plague is concerned, I find it extremely difficult to understand?/forgive? the majority of folks who ignored them, and wondered who among them questioned in private. On the other hand, there have been no positive cases in Nelson/South Island in I can't remember how long; I concede life has been painfully normal in most respects, I don't blame folks who can't see the point in following the rules. And then there is the small matter of being visibly Asian in a rather white town and wanting to avoid unnecessary nastiness. 

So I was feeling flat all last week and then on Wednesday my sister told me Mom is in hospital for what she understands to be observation, (i.e. something more than the care facility is willing to handle,) but because of the Plague she can't visit and has to wait for the hospital to ring. And they haven't rung. I've got another post about Mom I started in... May? 

There is absolutely no doubt my news consumption isn't helping. That thing about being informed, witnessing history, blahdyblah. Let's face it, opening social media to read, too often only the headlines, is much easier than a lot of other things for a sloth. About a month ago I created a Twitter account just so I can follow a few journalists because they are not on Facebook, but it took me a couple of weeks to tweak/limit whom I follow and train myself to check only once a day. And because I follow no arts/books/non-political folks/institution, it is starker than Facebook how limited one's information leaning can be. It's also ridiculous reading a 37-tweet thread explaining the 5th Senate Intelligence Committee report sandwiched between Tottenham Hotspurs, (I know what that is!) and the state of the plague in Victoria, as if they are of the same importance. Also funny how childish/reactive/slogan-y some revered law profs and former [insert high-ranking legal/govt job titles] can be; so easy to unfollow when even I can think of a snappier dissing. 

Just to be on the safe side, I put myself on low-dose supermarket St John's Wart, and got some herbal sleep inducer. (I also noticed hay fever eased up when the mood was particularly low - I wonder if they were related. I was thinking of getting T-shirts saying, "Hay Fever, not Corona". ) I don't mind talking about my kind of mild-to-moderate depression, being asked about it, but I don't want to talk myself into it, and this time I'm hoping if I ignore and just do stuff, it might go away if it was ever here. 
Anyway... or as we used to say in Minnesota, Anyways... I'm OK. I hope you are, too.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 6

Day 36, September 16. Day 36, September 16. No rain, bright sun, a whole lot of wind. I've been meaning to do a couple of thinky things but I can't stay on a thought. On the other hand, I "just" took a picture of the experimental knitting in the morning and, lo, I couldn't put it down. I knitted quite a lot, undid a lot, knitted some more, but found a big mistake and am contemplating undoing even more. I'll try at least one thinky thing tonight.

(Can you see the bump above the bottom needle?)
Day 37, September 17. Today was a sucky day. Not for a specific reason, (we saw three tuis on the cherry tree in the morning,) but it was a completely uninspired, wasted gray blob on the calendar. Even the fancy evening tea turned out a little weak.
Day 38, September 18. Baking Day 39, Photo Day 40. Feeling flat.
Day 39, September 19. Takeaway Day 39, Photo Day 40. Takeaway from the nearest takeaway. Not coping with the new Blogger editor and even thinking, in sane moments, of switching to elsewhere. (But will others be better?)

Also, considering our last Takeaway was May 23, we patted ourselves on our backs for cooking consistently, and in some cases, much better than pre-Plague.
Day 40, September 20. Not takeaway today, because we went to the supermarkets. Yup, two, plus the Asian food market. And we have junk food. (Sorry, not in focus. We were hungry.) 
 
I love the tails because they're not greasy, but Ben prefers the meaty parts. Today I got my way.  
Day 41, September 21. In a couple of hours everybody except Auckland goes to Alert Level 1, (and Auckland to Level 2 48 hours later,) meaning, once again, other than the boarder being closed, we are free to do as we please, (but keep a log of where we go, wash hands, stay home if sick, etc.) It's just as well because the ambiguous Level 2 was starting to get on my nerve, even with my easiest of lives. 
 
Today I planted hellebore seedlings all afternoon, as well as two-thirds of sage and prepped rosemary for propagation just in case I kill the one I want to move. 
 
And this concludes this diary's Season 2. But the future is unknowable, isn't it? We humans will be living with this virus for some years to come, and I don't know if it means we will go to another lockdown, in the near or not-so-near future. But if we do, oh, please let it be anything but Level 2.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, friends. We are still all in this together.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 5

Day 29, September 9. Ben's Holiday 10/14. Ward Update: Patient B slept OK and made bitter coffee in the morning, Not-Nurse M added lame cheese toasts and leftover salad. It's windy, so food foraging may be next. Wind-permitting, weeding OR washing a WHOLE bunch of tiny plastic pots OR lost wax project in the afternoon. Garden Center is out because neither of us can lift large bags of potting soil. Or weaving. 🀣🀣
Does anyone remember what occupied this space before the travel agency? A bank branch? I don't remember it being a sporting goods shop this side of December 1996, though.

We watched the recording of the update; we must stop watching the press Q&A afterwards as I fear stupid might be contagious. Then we left home at 2.30 to go to the PO, bank and the supermarket. Schools close around 3PM in New Zealand and many parents pick up their kids in the family car, resulting in Part 1 if afternoon traffic jam, on the road and in shops. We came home around 4.30 exhausted. (In Non-Plague time, we often went to the supermarket in the evenings.) But I still have got it in me to draw a little, and if not, I'll knit.

6PM Update: Patient appears to be in far less pain than initially anticipated, OR being a real man by not showing it outwardly, getting in and out of Pajero more easily than short, old Not-Nurse. (Actually it reminds me of my wonky hip problem; he says staying standing up is easier than changing posture or staying seated.) Patient also chopped cabbage finely for coleslaw, prepped yogurt, and may cook fish for dinner. Not-Nurse is unsure what her duties were, but will start the fire anon and later prepare a hot bath. Medication will be reduced from 3*generic minimum dose paracetamol/day to 1* starting tonight before bedtime.
Day 30, September 10. Ben's Holiday 11/14. I hoped it would be like the weekend when rain was forecast throughout but we got it for all of 20 seconds while I was outside taking a pic. I woke up at the regular time but was consumed by news for hours, HOURS, just reading headlines and summaries but not full articles. Remembering sourdough was waiting, I got up, and:

Made mayo; made coleslaw with cabbage Ben chopped yesterday.
Prepped rye loaf; fed sourdough.
Checked latest lacto-fermentation; all but one (beetroot) went into the fridge; got rid of the white mold and added filtered water in the one troubled bottle; this stays on the table.  
Washed/soaked cannellini.
Salted tonight's steak. 
Had a wee break with coffee No 1. 
Made Tondoori Masala marinade; marinaded chicken for Chooza Tikka and Butter Chicken.
Stomped outside, fetched a paver, shooed away a blackbird digging around the healthiest new Slate for the third day, and placed the paver in front, and some wood behind it. He came back in 12 minutes to dig elsewhere. 
Washed dishes.
Had coffee No 2.

This took less than the aforementioned "hours," but since it was raining, Ben casually mentioned we, (i.e. I,) could make tapenade with some old black olives. Instead of making a mental note and putting the jar back in the fridge, I was on autodrive. Without caper, without anchovy, though, it morphed into a nuts and seeds paste with a lot of thyme and garlic and Ben's peppery olive oil. It was actually good.

I realize some of the tasks in the list took no more than 10 seconds, but some days one yearns for a sense of achievement any way one can get it. Thinking back, had I gotten up at the regular time when I woke up and gone outside, I could have had half a day of working in the hellebore patch. I'm loosing patience with myself because this week plants/weeds are growing at a visibly freakish rate; I kid you not, it's like a bad movies!

After 4PM, the sun came out, the temperature was nice, I was so keen to go outside to do something, but couldn't think of anything I'd be happy to do just for an hour before dark, (or when rain returned,) so I thought to draw. (I haven't started at the time of writing.) I am struggling with drawing lately, partly because I don't do it regularly. I loose not only the knack but the love for it; I find the drawings uninspiring, dispirited.

Still a goodish day. More than half the fridge content is our own pre-processed food. :-D It means for the foreseeable future there is variety in our salads/sides without fuss. So, yay me? But I'm not going back to the kitchen for the rest of the evening.
Day 31, September 11. Ben's Holiday 12/14.
Day 32, September 12. Ben's Holiday 13/14. For the first time Ben went to bed without painkillers last night, and though sometimes uncomfortable, he seems to be doing OK. Phew. In fact, he weeded in a more or less normal posture for some hours in the afternoon, and isn't bent out of shape. I got distracted by a backup software, (I thought Ben instructed me to watch it first and then to do something afterwards; turns out I only needed not to shut down the laptop,) but I, too, went outside later and put three hours' work, including some upside-down convolvulouos root digging where my body is at a higher elevation than my hands and the roots. 

I love strongly scented plants. Last Monday I cleaned the thyme pots, of which we have quite a few! Today I pruned untidy sage plants and prepped for propagation. Near sage I have oregano that's growing not where I put it, and a rosemary I propagated in a shallow planter and left in a suitable position. Of the half a dozen, one grew so well and is now over 2 meters long growing sideways and its roots deep in the ground through the planter. I would like to dig it up without killing it and without destroying the terracotta planter, and put it in the ground properly.

I also have some heliotrope babies that need shaping, and quite a lot of what we call Erica but we know it's not the right name. Their needle-like leaves smell divine, but we lost three because miniature Kowhai above grew so vigorous, it deprived them of light. I also rescued Ben's favorite shrub with yellow flowers, (NO idea what it is,) some years ago from underneath the Kowhai; it didn't do to well in the new position and we thought we lost it but Ben found it while weeding. Other than roses, I am in charge of pruning, except tall trees we do together, so after the hellebore patch, I'll be going around giving everybody haircuts. Sadly, our lilac bush and gardenia-in-a-pot appear well and truly dead.Ben also found out the roots of either a cherry tree, or more probably the big maple, is spreading so vigorously it's now cracking out driveway concrete. That will need professional solutions. 

I'm trying to put as much of what I've propagated in the last... decade into the ground now before the ground becomes too dry and hard. But I say that every year about now. I almost sound like someone who likes to garden, don't I?
Day 33, September 13. Ben's Holiday 14/14. Photo Day 29. Boo hoo, Ben's last day of holiday. We cooked, ate well, didn't go out much; we had hoped to brunch in a cafe and there was a movie Ben wanted to see, but we did neither. Which sounds more or less a typical Nakagawa staycation.

Today we slept in, had a ho-hum breakfast, and I set out to make Butter Chicken for the last night. It was darkish and windy in the morning so I took my time. Ben, on the other hand, might have overdone it yesterday and had an uncomfortable night, but ended up in front of the computer for quite a long time. I.e. most of the day!!

Butter Chicken took longer than usual; I'd forgotten to get tomato paste so had to improvise. I've also been too enthusiastic about fenugreek since Ben commented that makes our house smell like an Indian restaurant, but I'd overdone it and the concoction was turning bitter.

Wind died, sun came out, I was missing out on outside time, but I was nowhere near finishing, all worked up in frustrated, exasperated panic. I did the best I could, it was nearly 3PM, but the only remedy in calming down was to engage in some carnage in the garden.

These days it's light enough until nearly 6PM, so I kept digging convolvulous roots around the hellebores. Though the job wasn't as meticulous this year, and already tiny grass is coming through the bits I weeded first, I'm declaring "winter" weeding completed in Hellebore Patches I and II. I still have to feed them, mulch, place obstacles for cats and blackbirds; and dig around and reset the pavers, but, hey, it's something.

We quit investing in bark, though, because that's an open invitation to blackbirds; they not only make a mess but dig too deep and take out younger plants. I used to have a dozen purple Heucheras in between hellebores, (all different kinds!) but their roots are shallow and blackbirds routinely took out 40cm plants, so now I only have one hidden a little way away.

Last week I noticed bluebells had come out suddenly and I loved the color combination of pale blue and dark purple, so today's pic is a "before" pic. It looks dry but that part of the garden is like a wind tunnel and it only gets dryer in summer, so this is our tough love gardening. Slightly to the left, the next area I'm attacking, currently has creamy alstroemeria behind rosemary, and they, too, are producing a lovely color combo. I always like dark blues and purples, but these pale purples are working out this year.  

Not even I imagined I'll be talking like this, but here's the clincher: the FB succulent group told me the damage done to one of mine was due to snails and slugs, and I had to go out every evening to check for the and kill. And I do. And now, (gulp!) I can even pick up slugs with my bare hands! Although it is followed by frantic Plague-Plus washing.

Ben "goes back" to work in the morning.
Day 34, September 14. Lovely sunny day, but we expected another 1PM update, so once again, I scheduled my morning around it. I'm not sure if watching these live is that important, or reading summaries later would suffice and I'm just using them as an excuse, or to anchor my life. Anyhoo, I took a bunch of photos of these fading dark pink hellebores, and some of the outside ones, in my pink PJs at hours normal people were heading to work. :-D

Parliament was dissolved on September 6 in preparation for election on October 17, but I assumed the Labour-led cabinet was deciding, and Jacinda was announcing from Dunedin where she was today; the uncertainty annoyed me. And though that was the case, silly camera person showed Jacinda only, and the sign interpreter was just out of view and but we could see his shadow!

Auckland will stay in Level 2.5 to be reviewed next Monday. (There is potentially another cluster, though I doubt we'll know before next Monday.) The rest of the country remains in Level 2, with a lot of fancy language, but nothing changes for the week. Rules on public transport changed but that doesn't concern us. There was a big anti-lockdown protest in Auckland, but I'm glad the government didn't succumbed to political pressure. Aotearoa* is becoming divided, populist politicians and business folks are spreading stupid. The worst part is, it's always the already vulnerable communities that is affected the worst.

I had intended to, and needed to, go out for sanity's sake, even though the sun was really bright and I was getting a headache even inside the house. I dithered for a long time, too. Once again I wanted to plant some stuff as rain is forecast for the rest of the week, but planting requires some thinking and I just couldn't manage, so I planted myself in one of the worst weedy areas and did my thing. Sure, shoulda done more in the winter, shoulda done more last week, so new plants are already in the ground, yadda yadda, but just because rain is forecast doesn't mean we'll get some, so maybe there is time to pop out if I have good ideas.

*It's Maori Language Week, and Jacinda thought it'd be great if we used more Maori, starting with "Aotearoa" i.e. New Zealand. Until a few years ago I had my heart set on learning some Maori, (and a lot of Italian,) but I abandoned them because English is hard enough. But I hope to learn a few words, and perhaps untranslatable concepts, my fav. 

PS. Sorry about the horrible windows. I have firewood under the kitchen windows so I can't hose them down just now, but perhaps I'll add that to my list and move the firewood, so I can see my progress while I work in the current patch.
Day 35, September 15. Brilliant spring sun, slight breeze, perfect for weeding. Except on Wave II Day 3 of Hay Fever my eyes were so itchy I used eye drops before finishing the usual morning chores. Still itchy, with more eye drops plus nasal spray plus antihistamine, I waited for them to kick in, taking pics around the kitchen. I was going out at noon one way or another.
 I wondered if I can cut this up to get multiple beet roots?
Lovely cool temps, occasional wind. Then more wind. Then cold gusts and gray sky. Around 12.45 soft rain; by 12.55 it was cold and the rain got serious, I came. By 1.05 the sun was out again, and 1.07, rain stopped. It was going to be one of days!

But rain is good; plants needed it, the ground needed it, and hay fever eyes really needed it. I left a small shovel and seed packets by the front door so I could rush out if the spirit moved; otherwise there was plenty to do inside.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 4

Day 22, September 2. Ben's Holiday 3/14. A year ago today I boarded a plane to come home after three weeks helping siblings clean out mom's condo and move her into a care facility. It was a tumultuous trip and I had stuff on my mind. Though I've written to and spoken with Mom many times, and communicated with my sister and one friend electronically, I wanted to write to them once the dust settled.

After coming home I bought nice Kiwi design cards, but I was never sure what to say. Finally in November I filled up the cards and bought NZ chocs and nice smelling soaps but never got around to posting them. It was a busy-ish summer and/or I might have been avoiding sounding OK with everything or felt I hadn't said enough. Came the merry season and we ate the chocs and used the special soaps.

It's these letters I was going to write yesterday, in addition to the scribbles inside the cards. I wanted to type and print them because my handwriting is difficult to read at best and it's easier to edit while typing. I felt I had to say something... meaningful... in addition to Corona, the weeding, cooking and the temporary absence of weaving. Put some thoughts into them.

Except the printer broke. Or Ben broke it. Whichever, it has served us for many, many years and, as much as I hate throwing things away, especially plastics, let's face it, it's nigh on impossible to get old electronics repaired these days. Especially in a small town. So that's on order. I drafted the first letter.

It's really been a LONG and VERY short year.
Day 23, September 3. Ben's Holiday 4/14. Planned to go outside as soon as I washed the dishes, but remembered we bought veg to process, so I thought I'd do them quickly.

We love lacto-fermented beans and beetroot, but I fail more often than not, so I used smaller jars. Also roasted beetroot; prepped sourdough that'll go in the oven tonight; made mayo. Remembered I did a load of laundry yesterday so gave it another rinse cycle, sniffed, and hung them; tried to take an old stain out of mom's jacket... And... it was nearly 2PM.

I have to change the way I spend the day; the sun is getting stronger so I should go outside in the morning to weed, come in when the sun is strong, and do whatever, rather than the pattern I fell into during the autumn/winter lockdown. Starting tomorrow.

As long as I didn't go outside, I promised myself I'll finish the letters instead. It's OK, there is six more hours of today left.
Was-Pink
Was-Purple
Was-Purple
Still-Slate
Day 24, September 4. Ben's Holiday 5/14. I was really really tired today. Alert Level 2 (and 2.5 for Auckland) was extended; Cabinet will reaccess on Sept 13.
Day 25, September 5. Ben's Holiday 5/14. Photo Day 26. Last night I was planning on an early night and checked FB one last time at around 10PM. I stumbled upon the start of Reuters' live coverage of Beirut rescue attempt and watched it for four hours. Between a dozen to twenty folks, men and women, took turns removing rubble using hands, gloved and otherwise, two shovels and two pick axes, occasionally assisted by large dust sucker/s, a large shovel attached to a vehicle, and a vehicle attached with a large pillar-like thing that can extend and pull/push, which may be the same as the shovel vehicle, and I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. It was a painstaking, slow process, occasionally made worse by what the comment section said was helicopters raising such bad dust the screen just turned brown. There were a few small drones as well. Reuters turned it off when yet another sensor/scanner was set up and everybody with a heartbeat had to leave and all the communications machines had to be turned off. Today I kept looking for an update and found none.

(Two guys never lifted a finger, just observing, talking, giving orders. One of them had a snack while everybody else was working, and took a selfie with the other boss guy.)

I also remembered I joined an NZ succulents FB group a while back and switched back on their feed. Who knew succulents had proper Latin names, different sub species, and oh-so-many fans who spends hours and dollars loving them! I'm only interested in keeping mine alive and propagating when possible.
Day 26, September 6. Ben's Holiday 7/14. Hopefully the last of the yucky sucky days. The weather wasn't great in the morning so I tried to take care of as many small unfinished jobs as possible; among others I wrote aforementioned letters - four not three. Now we wait for the printer. I also looked up Beirut rescue gazillion times; that appears sadly more or less over.

Second week of Ben's holiday we sincerely hope to get some yard work done. Honestly.
Day 27, September 7. Ben's Holiday 8/14. We didn't feel like going outside, but hey, this is the start of Week 2 of Ben's holiday and this was supposed to be a weeding/gardening holiday, so we went outside, took up our respective stations of choice, and worked all afternoon. And we feel great, though Ben's lower back and my legs are tired.

This tulip bulb is about 20 years old. Though the flower has become smaller and smaller, it never fails to bloom. This year the plant is about 20cm tall, but see, the flower is ready. I planned to finish weeding the two main hellebore patches, but ended up weeding/pruning/tidying the pots. Tomorrow, hellebores.

Lately as I weed, I've been listening to the audiobook of Roth's "The Plot Against America". It's mind-blowing how he knew authoritarian tactics so well. It's... what's the word... breathtaking in a astounding way. And no weird sex in 7/12 of the book.
Day 28, September 8. Ben's Holiday 9/14. We must have had a good day yesterday because we both slept soundly until 8.30. Today was a beautifully sunny, cool day with a slight breeze, but neither of us went outside, because, ladies and gents, Ben definitely pulled a muscle. There is a Japanese word for this "injury", but we don't know if there is an English equivalent. Ben's done it in the past, and so have I. We stayed inside, Ben taking it easy but stretching regularly, while I nagged, coaxed and nursed to make sure he did. I'll go outside tomorrow, though; I get so frustrated when he doesn't mind me.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Plague Project Ideas that Might Have Been

I still like many of my ideas for Plague projects that popped up earlier in the lockdown in March and April, (or I might have forgotten ideas I didn't like,) and I can still work on any because they come from my various one-day/back-burner lists, many projecting my usual, (i.e. peacetime,) desire to learn something specific, or "do/finish" little-at-a-time projects. I'm trying to remember them as best I can this morning.

*Learn the Italian national anthem. (Yes, those balcony vids!)
*Learn the NZ national anthem Maori version.

*Memorize Kipling's poem, "If".
*Memorize Bruce Mason's "End of the Golden Weather". When we came to NZ in 1994, I took out a whole lot of New Zealand plays, short stories and some novels from the library. This was the first, and we lived in the area of the North Shore where the story took place, in the right season, so even though the subject is perhaps not my usual, just the title brings back memories of our earliest days in NZ.

*Read Shakespeare's plays in order they were said to have been written.
*Read Van Gogh letters.
*Read the rest of Van Gogh biographies I already have.

*Put a long warp and weave a little every day as a diary.
*Alternatively knit somethings that are not anything specific, (i.e. abstract?) using different yarns/colors, adding every day.
*Alternatively knit small somethings by adding every day but completing/cutting off weekly/fortnightly.  
*Work on a one-ever-day project in the sketchbook.
*Alternatively work on a more in-depth weekly/fortnightly project, e.g prints.

*Pick a cookbook and cook everything in it or one whole section of the book.

I remember some I gave brief thought to but knew I wouldn't last more than a few days. Any would have been worthy but considering how restless I've been especially during the first Level 4 and 3 lockdown, I put the "failure" to give these further thought to my knowing better how I... operate/live. 

*Learn Maori (language.)
*Learn Italian.
*Learn NZ sign language.

* Clean the stash room and downstairs work space. (I have done little bits but I've contemplated a grand overhaul since I've come back from Japan a year ago because I wanted a setup that suited what might be the "rest of my life" weaving style, whatever that may be. In the first instance I was busy weaving immediately after I came home so that was halted. I also needed to sort/store/give away Mom's clothes I brought back. I've washed everything early in the lockdown, cleaned out my closet, sorted and given away lots, but haven't gotten enough space to store what I'd like to keep, so they are sitting on the stash room floor. And, you know, I have to be in the mood for a big tidying for this mammoth job. Yikes.) 

I contemplated living normally, but I felt acute FOMO if I were not to live intensively in this shared period. Also if a Plague couldn't provide a switch/addition to how I approach making and life, I knew I'm a dead soul.

Looking back, I'm not sure as yet if it's had a long-lasting effect on my making in particular. I "enjoyed" the sense of camaraderie shared by "the world", even though in Feb/March/April it was mostly Asia and Europe plus some of us who read/watched obsessively. I feel just as disappointed not having a productive day as before, but I may now place equal value to a day spent weeding, cooking, knitting something I might unravell,  or reading, as I do weaving or working on a project. Even watching endless YouTube on interesting subjects.

I'm less angry at myself for having unproductive times/days, which at once worries me, (you can't get slacker than me, I tell ya,) but this allows me to start afresh whenever/whatever. I think the expression here is "less apologetic", and that can only be a good thing for someone who's apologized profusely, (to whom?) for not living up to (whose?) expectations. I get the feeling this was already happening pre-Plague due to my old age and decreasing mental stamina and stickability. But if I'm turning into one of those people who "talk" less and work away quietly, I can like myself little more?
Did you/have you worked on a Plague Project? Did you share on social media? Let me know; I'd love to have a look. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

In Search of Good Ideas

I've been thinking about designing/not-designing for over a month but my focus keeps morphing/moving/disappearing I better jot down what I can remember at this point.
Some days joy-knitting goes fast and without worry; then several days in a row I just stare/glare and see no solution. Some days I don't want to do anything else but knit, while on others I want to unravell the whole lot. When the going is good, though, it's not just enjoyable as something to do, but the process of thinking-but-not-thinking intriguing. In fact, thinking/counting produces less attractive solutions, while following mostly what (I think) I see has produced most attractive results. And I feel lucky to have stumbled upon those options.

In contrast to what I've read/studied about designs, the thrill of this kind of process is most urgently felt when I've gone against rules, or in spite of them. As in, when a random curve is more attractive than a well-calculated alternative. Of course it doesn't happen this way all the time; in fact there are plenty more patches of bad ideas, but when something does work, I enjoy being surprised. And of course knitting is easier to undo than weaving, so if something really doesn't work, hey, presto!

I wonder how to approach designing, weaving in particular, so as to invite these surprises, but not resorting to a hit-or-miss approach. Weavers tend to plan (everything) ahead of time; this is the nature of our craft. But if we can slip in the unplanning/unthinking element in our... plan? The making would be so much fun.

Joy-knitting has been a positive experience, including the bad days, but the overall look? Ummm... ex-peri-mental. This particular scarf, if it becomes an unusable Plague Project, I'm OK with it.
In May, we signed up for a correspondence course in lost wax technique of jewellery making. In a way it's not as hard as it sounds; we carve wax, Tom casts the metal, and we polish and wear them. On the other hand, it's 3D, and what I think of as "reductive" making, (we're removing the unwanted bits,) rather than building up, and it baffles me how some folks can see things that way. And I'm unfamiliar with the material and tools.

I wanted to hold on to my new way of designing/undersigning and had my mind set on making something abstract. (Also, I'd be less disappointed that way if my piece doesn't turn out to look the way I had intended.) So while Ben just started carving, I spent many hours looking up images of Bronze Age jewelry, (because bronze is one of our metal choices,) fish and dog sculptures, (I like their shapes,) Minoan drinking cups, (I like pictures and objects based on everyday objects,) and sculptures of masks, (I've always liked faces and masks though I never looked into why.) I thought to doodle a few in a sketchbook and got thoroughly distracted.
At first I couldn't find the right sketchbook, then I found some interested stuff I've done in the past. I fell in the rabbit hole of trying to mark the dates use on the sketchbooks, which took a heck of a long time because I only date some pages by month and date but never years. Also I go months and sometimes years without using sketchbooks so I had to check this blog and try to remember when I took which classes and travelled where, etc.
I found one more, from 2010 to April 2014.

I did doodle a few mask ideas, but haven't made progress on the wax project.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 3

Day 15, August 27. Photo Day 16. The day was still and lovely but my muscles ached and we had quite a lot of rain overnight, so I looked for/made up housework needing doing all morning. Still, the hellebores called, so I went out in the afternoon; these days if it's sunny I can see until almost 6PM. I collect only singles, and in this area only dark pinks, purples and my favorite, slate, but slates don't produce many seeds and self-seeded babies don't survive. This, much darker in real life, may be the only transplanted self-seeder that survived in the 20+ years, although hellebore colors aren't stable so I can't tell for sure. Plants started from European seeds several several years ago finally flowered; they are beautiful slate, much darker than Kiwi slates, but are only 60% in size. There is even a white one with pink edges came out of nowhere. Cute, but mixed feelings; I find myself discriminating against it on basis of color.
Day 16, August 27. I checked the forecast first thing to plan my day among hellebores; wind to die down around 1PM, cool but cloudy to sunny all day. So, although it was warm in the morning I did housework, and went out armed with tools, podcast and a ginormous To Do list at 1.15. First thing was to put bags over slate for seeds; I hate that they look a little like Abu Graib prisoner, and the red bags are ugly... but seeds? Then I put a few robust seedlings in the gaps. Shortly after I hunkered down near the new babies to weed, the sky turned dark and the temperature dropped. I kept going while watching the sky, then droplets started, so I put away tools, speaker, camera, etc. Just as I finished them away, it cleared, so I pondered, but rain came back so I came inside and had a shower. When I came out the sun was out, grrrr.... but then it turned dark so I just gave up. As I'm typing, the sun was brilliant one minute, but now it's darker. Never mind, I've got things I have to do inside, too.

Considering there's a worldwide pandemic going on, I'll have to call this a good day.
Day 17, August 28. I worked for five hours, digging out Convolvulus roots downhill while sitting on higher grounds, among other things. And for the first time ever, I cut some and brought them in.

The color difference is exaggerated by the camera. The new slate is a little less blue and the old purple is a little more, but see what I mean by the new one being smaller? Also, where hellebores are concerned, I can now squish aphids with my bare hands.

To tell you the truth, I think they look better in the garden than cut and stuck in a jam jar inside, but still lovely.
Oh, what? Only a day and a half later. I'm never going to waste potential seeds by bringing the flowers back inside! Id did the blame against the cut stem thing, changed the water once a day. Where did I go so wrong??  
Day 18, August 29. Photo Day 19. I was so keen to get back outside but the sun was so strong I almost needed sunnies inside, so I "decided" I was too tired. πŸ˜ƒ I knitted, read, and paced around the house all afternoon, while Ben roasted a few tons of beans.

I've been keen on young adult novels for the last few years and Frances Hardinge is one of my favorite authors. Her newest, ninth, though I started in late July, I've had a really hard time staying with it. I've read six of her novels so far, all of which had young girl protagonists who found themselves having to be courageous. This one's hero is a boy, a juvenile delinquent; on good days I read two or three pages, then had several days "off". But boy, on Page 55, things suddenly picked up. Frances did not disappoint!
Day 19, August 30. We had a lovely morning coffee with Ben's friends. I revised Level 2 rules with Ben several times, because I shocked an elderly friend when I saw her in front of Volume last Tuesday, but let's just say this morning rules were inversely adhered to, i.e. all of us stayed within 2m of each other, hugging and everything.
Afterwards, since we were in town anyway, we contemplated having lunch or checking out the shops but we couldn't think of anywhere inviting, so we drove out to Richmond to get posh cheese and salami. And boy, did we.

We got home at 2PM, and brought out smoked salmon, bread, finger veg, and red wine, followed up with a nap. It's OK because it was too windy for weeding anyway.
Day 20, August 31. Ben's Holiday 1/14. I've always felt celery was more punishment than nourishment, but Ben reminded me we have free ones this year, and if it's just to add texture, I suppose I could live with it.

Wind was still strong in the morning, so Ben smoked pork while I prepped a chicken with celery and kumura in the stuffing. By the time I was finished, the wind died down, and I knew I had a few seedlings I wanted to put in the ground since rain is forecast tomorrow. I fluffed around, but the chicken went into the BBQ, and I went out. We now have seven (or was it eight?) Sea Hollies we'll be able to see from the kitchen, behind the hellebores, if successful. Yay, me.

And with a big chunk of pork and a whole chicken smoked, we won't have cook so much the first week of Ben's holiday. Yay, Ben.
Day 21, September 1. Ben's Holiday 2/14. Today is the official start of spring in New Zealand, but I think Nelson's started last Saturday. The quality of sunlight changed suddenly; glaring some times I need sunnies inside the house. But most importantly, tuis stopped coming.

We've noticed last week we hadn't heard their loud but pleasant calls from early morning, or the flapping of their large wings when we go outside. We haven't seen the one small one always getting bullied, hanging upside down on the kowhai. They call louder on wet days, and we've had the first rain in a week, but nothing. I wonder where they go in the warmer season.

We had a breathtaking tui season this year; I still remember being astonished to find three in our kowhai last year, a first, but this year, five, even six, in our place, on top of the maple, banksia or cherry, hanging from the kowhais, tiny sasanqua, pineapple sage, and even one digging the veg patch on one occasion. Yup, the same small guy. Have a good summer; come visit anytime you like. I wonder if we'll see some of you again next year.

Rain was forecast for today so I had lined up a bunch of trivial jobs that had piled up in the house. It did rain, but kind of enough so I can't say it didn't with brillian sunny patches in between. I didn't get much done but ordered three packs of seeds. And gee, it's September, peeps.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 2

Day 8, August 19. Last night when Ben went to retrieved my mail ordered arthritis massage oil from the PO Box, he stopped by the supermarket because he wanted me to make butter chicken. πŸ˜ƒ It's something I learned during the first lockdown, and secretly I think it's the cream that makes us love it. This morning I did the Day 1 marinade part. The recipe doesn't require turmeric or paprika, so it's this color.

It started raining last night, and it's been a tad cold, so I studied my free-form knitting, trying to see what's going to happen in the next few cm.
 
Day 9, August 20. It took me a better part of the day to make butter Chicken. I didn't have some of the ingredients, had a extra of others, so it's slightly different from how it might have tasted the last time, but pretty close to how we remember from the countless takeaway trips. I added extra amounts of most spices, plus some Kashimiri pepper to give it a bite. I told you the last time, it's called butter chicken, but it calls for no butter, but a generous amount of cream.
 
Day 10, August 21. We've been having rain. Usually the day starts fine, sometimes brilliant, so I'm determined to go outside after I clean the kitchen, cook dinner and watch the 1PM update. Except sometime between cooking dinner and the end of the update, without fail the sky turns gray and the wet stuff comes down. First gently and pleasantly, but soon so dark I need the lights on to finish cooking. Golly, talk about not encouraging me.

Today, after the rain stopped me again, I oven-dried the unidentified citrus peel. I don't know who among you remember the flavoured coffees of the 80's - roasted coffee beans came with orange peel, almond slivers, or vanilla something, and we pulverized them in stylish electric grinders. That was my intro to coffee.

I don't know if these will work. They are, as usual, extremely bitter but not very fragrant. If it's no go with coffee, or tea, I'll think of something.
Day 11, August 22. Today was supposed to be, if you believe the Internet, the only non-rain day sandwiched between a week's rain on both sides. It was actually sunny and warm and still and lovely and I'd planned on both of us going outside most of the afternoon.

Except now we plan our days around the 1PM update, and there was none today, and by the time we found there was none, Ben decided he wanted to work on something we committed ourselves to back in May; it's called the lost wax method in jewellery making our friend Tom
is facilitating. We do the wax, he casts the metal, and we polish and wear.

Ben and I talked about our projects A LOT in the meantime, but the more I read about how it works the more unrealistically ambitious I got, and spent yet another afternoon searching images online, while Ben, well, he just sat down, got started, and finished one ring.

I get the feeling the ideas I have for the project is more suitable to pottery or even rock polishing than lost wax, but we'll see. Ben's now talking about possibly getting our own tool or two. πŸ˜ƒ
Day 12, August 23. I wanted to keep working on my lost wax project, and went looking for my sketchbook. I'm not big on sketchbooks because most of my pages end up messy and unattractive and I prefer backs of bills and envelopes so I can throw them away when finished. I also cull my pages pretty enthusiastically every decade or so. When I do use them, I work chronologically rather than by subject, so there usually only one currently in use.

At first I couldn't find the current, and picking up an old one, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few interesting pages. I sometimes date my pages but not the year and suddenly I felt the need to mark when I worked in each on the black plastic cover. That was the big part of this afternoon.
I flipped through several sketchbooks, trying to sort them chronologically first, (which turned out to be hard, looking up my blog, trying to remember when I travelled, etc,) then marked start and end month/year on each. It turned out I'm on #5 (A3 horizontal) and #6 (A4 vertical) since the start of 2010. I didn't dare go back further lest I'd waste more time. I did doodle some wax project ideas, but nothing spectacular.

I remember working on these collages - I made five a couple of years ago. I can't remember if I followed instructions on a MOMA modern art online course or I was reworking a Cubism idea I learned in 2013 in Japan. I remember hating them when I did these, but today they all look kind of interesting, something I might develop for something else.

Tomorrow we find out what is to happen to our Levels after Thursday.
Day 13, August 24. Photo Day 14. I worked around the hellebores until it was too dark to see my hands. While I was outside Jacinda announced Auckland will stay in Level 3 until Sunday, then Level 2 with some extra cautions; the rest of us Level 2 until further announcement on Sept 6.
Who doesn't like new shoots, eh, unless one is so far behind in spring garden prep. I have mixed feelings about these beatiful babies because we didn't even trim the one rose bush visible (if I get on top of the footstool) from the house. Never mind, today was better than yesterday.
Day 14, August 25. Ben had a time-in-lieu day, so we had a rushed t rip into town, starting with Skunk Granules at the Mega Store, (yes, there is such a thing,) donation at Salvation Army, (I had winter things and today was a already spring,) Volume, and food. The benefit of Level 2 shopping is one doesn't linger; we spent less than five minutes in five places, 15 in two, (15 minutes in Volume felt like punishment, though,) but almost a normal 50 minutes at Countdown, (because they allow two people to go in together.) Besides Stella and us, I saw exactly two folks with masks: a staff at the Asian Food Market and a shopper at Countdown.

A student musical (?) show was cancelled, which is very disappointing since our young friend heads to Uni next year, and it would have been the one and only chance to see him on stage. Unless the group thinks of something this summer. If I'm not mistaken, though, exam season is upon them.

We finish two weeks of Level 2 as of tonight, and best case scenario, just short of another two weeks. I need to catch up with yesterday's announcements, because you know, I was otherwise occupied.