Last call

This is the last hurrah of winter.

The last big storm.

Probably the last snow to hit us, down here on the river.

We’re past Imbolc now, and starting the garden.  We’re just a few short weeks away from the light half of the year, the overture of spring, fresh miner’s lettuce and garlic scapes.

I’ve sat in the sun for an afternoon– albeit with a shawl– and felt the light down to my bones.  It’s a bright, clear, bare sort of light in winter; not the sun of summer, indolent and salubrious, nor the brightness of spring, gentle and warming, nor even the dying opulence of the sideways autumn light.  Winter sun is sparse, both in frequency and in character.

But still, new growth is starting.  The earth is starting to stir beneath her blanket of snow and ice, and soon she will be kicking off the bedclothes and stretching toward the sun through the lengthening days.

The breeze smells of damp soil, rot, and a last sharpness of snow.

Ayyam-i-ha is only days away now, and then spring will come.  The moon is swelling back to full again to mark the return of the worm.

Soon we’ll turn the page on the dark half of this year.

This is the last chance for winter.  The last call to get outside and make footprints in negative space against the white mantle.  The last cozy afternoon under a blanket with your knitting.  The last long, dark evening for board games and books.  The last contemplative, gray morning before the rosy-pink sunrise.  The last opportunity to stand under a tree dripping with melting snow, making soft, fawn-coat splatters on the earth at your feet.

The last handful of snow clean enough to eat.  The last white-flocked tree branches standing in stark relief against the dark forest.  The last freeform, half-melted ice sculptures glittering on the gutters.  The last snowmelt puddle under the car.

Soon the icicles will fall off, and Coldweather will bow to Warmweather.

Until next winter.

Dear Pinterest

Dear Pinterest,

I know this is a weird way to start a letter, but I’m not a first-time mom.  And I’m not a new mom, either.  And regardless of my reproductive status, please try to understand that I have absolutely ZERO interest in gender reveal party ideas.

I don’t want to read reddit screencaps promoting misogyny, even if it’s camouflaged as “men’s rights”.

I’m not Mormon.  I’m not Christian.  My dudes, I am not even into religion at all.

I don’t want to learn about celebrity haircuts that could make me look younger.  I cherish the time I have lived, and I’m not a follower.

I am not an older woman, and even if I were, I wouldn’t care about anti-aging cream or makeup tips for hiding wrinkles and age spots.

I have a very solid understanding of what people ate in the 1800s.  And, while we’re on the subject of my ancestry, I don’t have a German name, or a French name, or an Italian name.  In fact, I know exactly what my family name means, whereas you cannot possibly guess.

I have no interest in buying false eyelashes, magnetic or otherwise.  If I wanted to wear falsies, I have three entire yards of black silk organza to work with, so I still wouldn’t need your help.

I’m not a prepper, and I don’t own a gun.  I would NEVER own a gun, even if, in the parlance of the times, SHTF.

I am not homeschooling my kids for religious reasons.  I don’t want to know how to teach them the Bible, why I should have them memorize the Bible, or how to teach them “Why God wants them to stay pure!”

I could never name all 50 state capitals, not even when I was a kid.

I don’t need the top 12 meditations for Christian mothers.  I am not a Christian, Pinterest.  I can’t believe you still don’t understand this.

I’m not in high school or college.  I see why this one confused you– I remember those days and am happy to chuckle along to memes about those experiences, but for real, stop pretending you don’t know how old I am.  We both know you know.

I will totally believe what Marsha from the Brady Bunch looks like now.  I am, in fact, familiar with the concept of women aging.

My kids are not stressed-out middle schoolers, and they don’t need easy science fair ideas.  If they did, I wouldn’t come to you for it, because I want to raise children who understand what science really is.

I don’t think having kids earn allowance or privileges in a strict quid pro quo system is good for their development; I definitely don’t think it’s “genius.”

I don’t care that some people took the same family portrait pose for however many years, and I don’t like being told not to cry.  I’ll cry if I damn well need to, and frankly, the only family portraits I want to see have people I know in them.

I’m not vegan, Paleo, keto, gluten-free, low-carb, or no-sugar.  I do like to shape what my family eats by specific guidelines, but you wouldn’t understand my system because it doesn’t have a hashtag.

I hate Marvel movies.  Really, I do.  And I’m not a fan of Disney.

I’m not a dog person, and if I were, I wouldn’t choose a dog to join my family based on the projected popularity of dog breeds in 2018.  A dog is not a paint color.

Speaking of paint colors, I do not care if houses with blue bathrooms sold faster and for more money in 2017, because a) I don’t have a house to paint, b) if I did, the popularity of certain features wouldn’t matter to me, and c) I don’t think of a house as a way to store money.

I know exactly which Kardashian sister I am (none of them), so I don’t need your personality test.  I also already know which Ministry of Magic job I’d have (Minister for Magic), and which character on “Little House on the Praire” I am most like (Brave #1).  Fuck off with this shit, it’s weird.

I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.  Again, I am not even a Christian.

I don’t shop at IKEA, I don’t understand why I would want “better-for-you gnocchi” to even be a thing, and I think if you need a personality quiz to tell you what kind of blog to start, you probably shouldn’t bother.

Finally, I don’t know quite how to put this, but I have actually negative interest in exploring essential oil regimens to promote weight loss, and the pinned image you are using to bring my attention to this particular bit of content is despicable.  You should be ashamed.

Sincerely, but in no way yours,

Elizabeth Surton

Changes

I have been buried under a mountain of work all month, and have just now managed to see a glimpse of daylight again.

We dramatically shook up our lives, downsized our possessions and space, and re-committed to building a local, fleshspace community.

I re-thought the storage of my work materials to bring the spinning wheel back out of deep storage.  I have a handspinning rare wool kit from several years ago that I have yet to use, and while I do want to spin some of it on my lovely Turkish drop spindle (which I also have yet to master), some of it will need the wheel.

We gave the smalls a day nursery for toys and art and games and books, so that we can move to a daily rhythm that doesn’t include cleaning-up friction.

We made wall space for our bigger maps and pushed Númenor and Ithilien a little harder on reading and writing so we could break through to grammar and semantics.  We joined a homeschooling group.

Our pullets laid their first eggs and our older hens gracefully accepted a dramatic change in their own space.  I made baskets, the first woven from cedar bark and twined sedge grass, and the last one crocheted from old t-shirts.

We canned applesauce and roasted Bavarian nuts and gave thoughtful Christmas presents and did magic and ate dinner in restaurants and fanned smoke and poured candles.

We watched the snow fall.  We fought our way through ice and storm to be with our extended family.  We ran and played and warmed up again by the dint of effort and seemingly endless cups of cider and cocoa.

We set up our movie projector.  We welcomed a fantastically bristly douglas fir into our living room.  I crocheted axolotls.  Robert sewed pants.  Númenor and Ithilien made felt balls and simmered them in Kool-Aid.

And as the last few hours of 2017 pass us by, we will be busy in the kitchen, making treats and trying experiments and (hopefully) starting some new soap.

May 2018 bring us peace, understanding, joy, victory, and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in darkness.  May the returning sun shine bright into the shadows and the rush of spring green lift us all to new life.

Mirror

I see my grandmother’s soft belly, warm and comfortable like a living pillow.  I see her thick, strong legs, hardened to oaken knots by a dozen miles walked each day between the clothesline, the kitchen, the pantry, the garden, the sewing machine.

I see my mother’s supple arms, smelling like home and squeezing tight to show love.  I see her feet, sure and straight.

I see my father’s hair, so dark it’s nearly black.

I see my grandmother’s lips, berry-pink, with a twist that seems halfway between haughty scorn and delighted laughter.

I see my grandfather’s nose, round and straight and tanned from the summer sun.

I see my children’s skin, sprinkled with little brown freckles like the punctuation marks of a poet.

I see my brother’s chin, scarred and healed, healed and scarred again, full of hurt and balm and lessons learned many times but still forgotten.

I see my great-grandmothers’ hands, nimble and dexterous in their work, stiff and sore after too much of it.

I see my great-grandfather’s ears, delicate, perfect, a little too fussy for the rest of the face.

I see my ancestors’ blood, carried laboriously over seas and through mountain passes to nourish the tiny ball of nothing that would become me.

 

When I look in the mirror, I can’t see myself.

It’s like locking eyes with a stranger, at once too intimate and thrillingly alien.

If a stranger could be the sum of my heritage multiplied by my experiences and divided by my physiology.

If a stranger could have the breasts that nourish my babies, and the eyes I remember from my childhood, and the posture of my sassy teenage years, and the nascent tracery of my age.

Fuck.

Reflections are crowded.

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in America.

At least it is in the blue states.  In the cities that try to make the streets safe for people instead of safe for cops.  In the jurisdictions overseen by the kind and conscientious instead of the hateful and fearful.

In the other places, the red districts, the small towns with cowboy-hatted bigots masquerading as a real government, today isn’t Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  It’s something else.

So it goes.

The US government gives us a Day for Washington, who created a legal process for recapturing human property in jurisdictions that had outlawed slavery.

A Day for all of the 45 men who have managed to become president, by whatever deeds, fair or foul, to share between them.

A Day for all the bluecoats, regardless of what they did or whether they wanted to do it, whether they were monsters looking for the chance to kill or were shattered inside by the first gunshot they were forced to fire.

A Day for all the bluecoats who died because one of those 45 special men couldn’t use their words to solve their problems.

A Day for workers, which most workers don’t have off, and specifically scheduled to undermine the legitimacy of the labor movement.

A Day for Jesus.

A Day for pretending that dangerous, violent, repressive religious extremists DID, in fact, receive a whole hemisphere of the earth as a present from their god, and the local native people were happy to be their magical savages.

A Day for congratulating all the above parties on how they totally 100% successfully created a great Enlightenment Eutopia.

A Day for Martin Luther King, Jr., killed by a “lone wolf” acting out the government’s wishes, for being audacious enough to dream of a day when his children could have white friends.

A Day to mark the beginning of a new Gregorian calendar year.

And, on paper, a Day for Christopher Columbus, a religious fanatic who stole things and people from dozens of foreign nations to present them as tokens of conquest to the architects of the Spanish Inquisition.

We’re supposed to feel grateful that the millions of people who were killed, raped, tortured, kidnapped, enslaved, brainwashed, imprisoned, disenfranchised, and stripped of their families, possessions, homelands, languages, cultures, and identities by the legacy of this “explorer” are allowed to share his Day of recognition.

Because that makes it all better.

Columbus Day is a recent holiday, created because a particular, influential group of male, Catholic Italian-Americans didn’t feel like they were getting enough white privilege.  They wanted someone who was like them to be upheld as part of the American identity.  They wanted recognition of Italian and Catholic contributions to the US built into the myths of white American national identity.

There is no holiday specifically setting out Irish or German or Welsh or French or Greek or Ethiopian or Congolese or Sioux contributions to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating a great hero of atheism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Islam, or Judaism for their contributions to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating the contributions of queer people to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating an American woman, or even ALL American women generally, for contributions to American history.

There is no holiday recognizing that the state machine of the US was built by black slave labor, greased with native blood, powered by the sacrifices of unpaid femininity, maintained by a constant ingress of disenfranchised and vulnerable immigrants, and run on tracks laid by indentured Chinese immigrants over land stolen from native communities through more than a century of war.

Bullshit excuses and band-aid solutions like national “observances” of a “history month” won’t cut it.

Native people have been victimized by the United States from its infancy.  It’s time for the government to take responsibility for that legacy.  It’s time to be honest about it.

It’s time for white Americans to learn that the history of the oppressed is the history of the oppressor as well.  It’s time to own it, to face what happened, and do better moving forward.

It is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in America.  Today.

What will tomorrow be?

Things I Have Told My Children They Could Be When They Grow Up

  • fire watcher
  • bike courier
  • delivery truck driver
  • security guard
  • zookeeper
  • cartoonist
  • custodian
  • technical diver
  • special effects makeup artist
  • fisher
  • pastry chef
  • glazier
  • robotics engineer
  • hobo
  • ceramicist
  • apiarist
  • librarian
  • checkout clerk
  • weaver
  • landscaper
  • Foley artist
  • tollbooth attendant
  • line cook
  • cartographer
  • sex worker
  • farmer
  • orchardist
  • book artist
  • astronomer
  • cobbler
  • blacksmith
  • clown
  • tree surgeon
  • restorer
  • housekeeper
  • line technician
  • animator
  • silversmith
  • postal carrier
  • paleontologist
  • calligrapher
  • secretary
  • charcoal burner
  • firefighter
  • teacher
  • chef de cuisine
  • spice harvester
  • vintner
  • travel journalist
  • parking attendant
  • blogger
  • oceanographer
  • food service worker
  • sanitation worker
  • restauranteur
  • auto mechanic
  • tinker
  • musician
  • vulcanologist
  • college professor
  • sommelier
  • meteorologist
  • television host
  • rancher
  • bus driver
  • actor
  • plumber
  • bike mechanic
  • paramedic
  • YouTube personality
  • cheesemaker
  • pollster
  • park ranger
  • homemaker
  • brewmaster
  • electrician
  • historian
  • baker
  • civil engineer
  • hotelier
  • social worker
  • linguist
  • marine biologist
  • archaeologist
  • lumberjack
  • shopkeeper
  • historical gastronomist
  • hunting guide
  • knitwear designer
  • inventor
  • forensic anthropologist
  • museum docent
  • barge captain
  • primatologist
  • cooper
  • herbalist
  • religious ascetic
  • bloodspatter analyst
  • picador
  • entomologist
  • nurse
  • miller
  • publicist
  • orphanage worker
  • finger artist
  • historical re-enactor
  • abortion provider
  • elephant trainer
  • food truck owner
  • radiologist
  • drive-in theater operator
  • author
  • geologist
  • tailor
  • fitness instructor
  • publisher
  • psychotherapist
  • ferry operator
  • storyteller
  • childcare provider
  • guerrilla conservationist
  • carpenter
  • building contractor
  • etymologist
  • historical archivist
  • film editor
  • trucker

Today, We are Not Quite on Fire

Not quite.

We’ve been under a canopy of smoke that blows away in the morning and comes back overnight for more than a month courtesy of that huge fire in British Columbia.  Our August was hazy and hot and almost eerily still.

But last night, as we drove home from a mini-vacation, we were able to see flames from the Eagle Creek fire from I-84.  The air was greenish gray and thick with smoke, so thick you didn’t so much smell the smoke as taste it.

And this morning, the world is covered in a dusting of ash.

But we are not on fire yet.

And soon, the rain will come.

It’s not in the forecast yet, but it’s coming.  I have faith.

And when the rain comes, and the fires are beaten back, and the forests are left blackened and alien in their quiet, and the world around us enters its autumn, we will all breathe a little easier, through lungs and in minds.

But for now, we are hiding inside with the windows sealed up tight, holding our breath as the house holds its breath, and the people who protect our community are fighting and sweating, because today, we are not quite on fire.

Not quite.

“How do I explain this to my kids?”

People love to invoke terrifying conversations that scar children for life whenever progressives are pushing for changes that will improve the lives of marginalized people.  Over the course of my life, I’ve heard people object to same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting on the basis that they couldn’t explain it to their children.

This is manifestly bullshit.  If your kid comes home from kindergarten and asks you where Heather’s daddy is and why she has two mommies, you say “There are all kinds of different families– some people have a mommy and a daddy, and some people have two mommies, and some people have two daddies, and some people have just one parent.  People are all kinds of ways.”  Done and done.

But there are some things I shouldn’t have to explain to my kids, because they shouldn’t be real.  For example:

20 Things I Shouldn’t Have to Explain to My Kids

  1. Normalization of non-consensual touching.  Obviously this includes rape, but more often, especially in children’s media, it’s smaller things like kissing someone or tapping their shoulder over their objections, that are overwhelmingly dismissed as “teasing” but obviously normalize a lack of bodily autonomy.
  2. Deportation of unaccompanied child refugees.  Did you know that children as young as three years of age are expected to act as their own attorneys in deportation proceedings?  Disgusting.
  3. Islamophobic violence.  I don’t even know where to start on this one.
  4. Children dying of neglect or abuse, especially when the people who are supposed to protect children from harm in the worst case scenarios (cops, social workers, CPS, etc.) are aware of the situation and failed to act.
  5. The glass ceiling.  We’ve had MANY talks about this one in the last several months.
  6. The “gay panic” legal defense.  What.  The.  Actual.  Fuck.
  7. Police murdering young people of color in the street with apparent impunity.
  8. Body shaming.  Why is the episode of Phineas and Ferb about Candance body-swapping with Perry the Platypus called “Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?”?  How is that child-appropriate, Disney?
  9. Cartoon misogyny and gender policing in general.  It is absurd that I have to point out to my children explicitly that non-femmefolk have eyelashes in real life.
  10. “Chief Wahoo”, “Chief Thunderthud”, and Tonto.  None of that shit should have happened.  None of that shit should be CONTINUING to happen.
  11. Blackface.  We recently looked up some of Bojangles Robinson’s tap dancing on YouTube and inadvertently opened a whole can of horrible racist worms.  Thanks, 20th-century America!
  12. Rooms full of old white men making decisions about children, women, and people of color.
  13. “Sundown Towns” and lynch law and slavery and the Back to Africa movement and everything else white supremacist society has cooked up to eliminate black people.
  14. Dr. Seuss’ political cartoons advocating the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, and, in fact, Japanese and Japanese-American internment itself.
  15. Reservations, the Trail of Tears, extermination campaigns (aka “the Indian Wars”), Indian scalp bounties, buffalo culls, Philip “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” Sheridan, the Indian Removal Act, and the cultural holocaust (including residential schools and the Dawes Act).  Not a complete list.
  16. Accidental shooting deaths of children.  The NRA has successfully lobbied against parents receiving information about the dangers of guns at child well-visits, and apparently everyone is just okay with this even though TODDLERS continue to accidentally shoot themselves and their family members on a regular basis in this country.  I cannot with this.
  17. The criminalization of abuse victims who act in self-defense.  How am I supposed to raise kids who stick up for themselves enough but not “too much”?
  18. Companies paying millions of dollars to defend their right to destroy the planet on which all their employees and customers live.  WHAT.
  19. The Flint water crisis.  And, by the same token, Love Canal, Cancer Alley and whatever the next poisoned, neglected, and gaslit community is going to be.
  20. The pay gap, the second shift, and all that other bullshit that characterizes the price of living while female in this country of supposed liberty and justice.

WIP Wednesday

start date: 12 May 2017
time elapsed: 3 weeks 5 days
completeness: 100%

This is the me-too shirt for Númenor’s robot shirt.  Of course, it’s a different pattern.  Not just a different one, but a more complicated one as well.  No matter, I thought.  At this stage in my sewing, I reasoned, I can handle just about anything.

Thereby I disproved the existence of god.  Because if there were such an entity, everyone would have heard them laughing at me.

This pattern was okay in terms of difficulty.  It wasn’t too fiddly, and the instructions were pretty clear.  But I used a pattern from a designer I’ve had trouble with in the past without making a muslin first.  Their clothes are so freaking cute, but I already knew that they really struggled with armscyes and their facings sometimes just didn’t work.  And I should have relied more on that past experience.  But it was so cute, and the size promised in the pattern was perfect.

And most of the pattern was fine.

But the neckline.

The neckline.

I finished the bodice and called Ithilien over so I could double-check the sizing by popping it over his head.  But it wouldn’t fit over his head.  It wasn’t even close.

So I unpicked the bodice and tried again.  This time he could put it on, but it was tight across the chest and stranglingly tight in the neckline when zipped up.

I unpicked some more.  I re-worked the side seams to give him an extra half inch in the chest, and took the zipper out, and cut the back split down an extra inch, and cut the whole neckline an extra half-inch lower.  Now it fit fine.

But the neck facing from the pattern obviously wouldn’t work anymore.

So I made up some bias tape with my new, beautiful, antique sad irons, and finished it off with a button and a loop.

And now, well, it’s perfect.  Which could be seen as all this effort paying off.

But for me, the thing that makes it most worthwhile to have finally fixed this cute little top is that it reminded me– very painfully– to consider the source when I sew up a pattern.  Next time, I’ll be working from a designer I’ve had good experiences with.

Maybe I’m just cynical, but caveat emptor seems to apply even more when it comes to things offered for free.  Maybe the modern advice would be closer to caveat usor.

Or, you know, semper muslinus prius facere.


The pattern, which I can’t recommend, is Modern Baby Doll Top by Shwin & Shwin; in addition to the modifications to the neckline and closure discussed above, I also gave it a straight hem.  The fabric is the same as last week.  The buttons are from my collection.  The irons are Geneva 8s, purchased on Etsy.