Forum Holitorium

Month: January, 2016

Time for Privacy and Indwelling

I am nearing the final section of Sue Hubbell’s book A Country Year: Living the Questions. A friend passed it on to me a short time ago, saying she didn’t need to have it by her any more and that she thought I might like it. It is the story of one year in the life of a woman who lives alone in the Ozarks and makes a modest living keeping bees and selling honey. Starting off with a quote by Rilke, the frequently cited “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves” one, the book pulled me in quickly. I have been reading it in small, nearly daily doses for the past two weeks. Hubbell writes clearly and sparely, honestly and compassionately about encounters with her neighbors, her bees, and the other animals and plants that surround her – coyotes, opossums, and monarch butterflies being a few of my favorites.

Yet the phrase that has struck me the most is her description of winter: “…it is a time for privacy and indwelling.” Yes. The word indwelling piqued my interest. It is a word I couldn’t define, yet I fancied I knew what it meant. I imagined it to mean being in oneself, being in one’s home, taking full possession of the space available to you, whether your body or your home. What indwelling actually means is slightly different. My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines the verb indwell as meaning “to exist as an inner activating spirit, force, or principle, to exist within as an activating spirit, force, or principle.” This is followed by the noun indweller. I guess I could consider myself an indweller in my own home – I activate it, make the space come alive simply by my presence, right?

Another definition I invented of indwelling was not reaching out into the world but making do with what has been gathered and brought into the home. Using up what’s stored in the larder, working through the stack of books, knitting up what’s been lurking in the corners of your stash. All actions proper to winter. I feel my spirits are starting to limp not so much from the cold and dark but from the repetition of routine and the remarkable similarity the days are starting to have. One potentially uplifting similarity, however, is the sunrise and its time-lapse scattering of salmon pinks and smoky blues in myriad combinations. What’s more, this morning I spotted four of the five planets – I think it was just Mercury I missed.

Don’t forget to enjoy the sunrise and keep an eye out for visible planets!

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Blue is All Around Us

Since elementary school, I have associated January with the color blue. One of my teachers – I forget which one – changed the paper background behind the large calendar on the wall each month, and in the fateful year when the combination of colors with months made such an impact on me, January was blue. Was the logic that your fingers turn numb when it is so cold, or that you notice the varying shades of the sky more as they contrast with the pale snow? Sometimes the snow appears blue too, like shortly after sunrise a few weeks ago by the Kenosha harbor.

Blue permeates my knitting this month. Super soft Austrian spun alpaca is taking the shape of a mottled blue shawl, while cornflower blue Icelandic wool contrasts with a faded, pale grey in my first two stranded project ever. A wonderful small sampler of different designs, the Julesokk pattern caught my eye during Advent. As a secret stripe enthusiast, I must confess I found the vertical lines more thrilling than the snowflake patterns themselves. I love the Latvian braid finish. All these shades and stitches reinforce the message from this picture found in the newspaper.

A nameless photographer captured this blue jay, one of my favorite birds. Though I didn’t see any during my recent visit to their habitat, I heard them calling from the neighbor’s trees. Few are the birds in the Northern latitudes that can compete with blue jays for their brilliant blue plumage. These intelligent birds have complex social relationships and often mate for life. Great fans of acorns, they feast on nuts and fruit and to a lesser degree insects. For now I’ll just have to be satisfied with seeing the flash of blue on the wings and crest of Cyanistes caeruleus, or Blaumeisen, as they are called in German and this household.

Despite appearances, I don’t have the blues, nor have I ceased to gravitate towards all hues of brown. My project to tide me over until spring is twofold this year. Like last winter, I have chosen a thick classic novel as my companion on cold, dark evenings. Instead of being irritated by a tubercular Prussian at a sanatorium in Switzerland, I will be laughing at the foibles of Don Quixote de la Mancha, a man who refuses to see things as they really are. He is an insufferable optimist and dreamer who insists on infusing the world with a meaning it doesn’t have (or only he sees). Sounds like a good counterpoint to the newspaper, doesn’t it? If the first 30 pages are any indication of the remaining 910, it will be a much easier ride into spring in 2016. The second part involves knitting the Winter Mists Wrap with the Schokotatze (chocolate paw) colored lace yarn mentioned in December. Since I am not a chocoholic, I’ve dubbed it my Espresso Scarf, for it will most likely warm my neck on the well beaten path to the coffee shop every morning.

Hope you are keeping the winter blues at bay in your own way. Happy reading, birdwatching, knitting and waking up to the beauty around you!

Janus’s Passage

One of the few ancient Roman gods with no Greek counterpart, two-headed Janus rules over doors (Latin ianuae) and covered passageways (iana), transitions and new beginnings. The English word janitor has its origins in the Latin ianitor, meaning doorkeeper or porter. I enter the new year through the passageway of January, looking back one last time before moving forward. The last week of December, I read through my journal entries, reflecting on the range of experiences I had had and the questions and wishes that arose over the course of the year. Of the many books I read in 2015, the ones that made the deepest impressions were My Two Italies by Joseph Luzzi, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, Yarn by Kyoko Mori, While Glaciers Slept by M Jackson, and A Tour of Bones by Denise Inge. Reading Inge’s book a few weeks ago, I was struck by the timeliness of the following passage:

“Living isn’t something outside you that you will do one day when you have organized your life a little better. It comes from deep in the centre of yourself. You have to let the life in there at the deepest part, and live it from the inside out.”

Last year was a year of decluttering and getting organized,  maintenance activities you need to do from time to time but no replacement for devoting yourself to your calling and to fulfilling pursuits. One year from now, how will I look back on and describe 2016 ? How will the year have unfolded? I refrain from making resolutions this year, vowing to listen to what wells up from inside me and to seek out a path that allows me to live “inside out,” as Inge writes. It will be a more intuitive year. As explained in previous posts, I set very specific knitting goals for 2015, which I achieved to a great extent. Interestingly, three quarters of everything I knit last year was a present for other people. As a reward, this year I plan on doing more knitting for myself, but there will be no targets to reach. Instead, I will listen carefully to the knitting muse’s directions on what kind of project to undertake. There is a common phrase in German ich lasse mich überraschen, I’ll let myself be surprised. Though I sense there will be much more blue in the future, this bag with a looped cable I recently completed is very brown.

Did you set any New Year’s resolutions? Hope your January is full of new beginnings, good books, and pleasant surprises!