February 23, 2007

TERRI'S MITTENS, MY QI

Terri has entrusted me with proofreading her soon-to-be-published book on Selbu mittens and gloves. Proofreading is even more fun for me than knitting, because I take so much pleasure in adding a comma here, correcting a misspelled word there. (This is not to suggest that Terri's text needs a lot of proofreading -- she is a fine writer.)

So I'm the lucky one who gets a sneak peek at the contents of Selbuvotter, beyond just the mitten pattern that I test-knit previously -- and let me tell ya, there are some really pretty designs in this book! The mittens and gloves are all color-stranded designs. A couple of the glove patterns are amazingly feminine, due to the curviness of their motifs. I'm sure that I'll be making a few pairs of from this book.

When the book is printed, you'll be able to buy copies from Terri's website, or from your favorite yarn shop and mine, Two Swans Yarns.

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This coming weekend, I'm registered for classes at the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute. I've had an interest in feng shui for the last five or so years, and have read several books on the subject (and waded through some conflicting and baffling information this way, too).

Here's how much I'm really certain that I know about feng shui, before going in for classes: (1) Clearing clutter is a good thing. (2) Keeping things in good repair is essential. This means the light bulb burned out over the kitchen table needs my immediate attention -- and we are going to have to get the leak under the kitchen sink repaired, pronto. (3) I'm not positive, but I think that it is not good feng shui to leave sitting on the doorstep the dead birds and dead mice that the cats bring us.

What's particularly motivating me to sign up for classes now is that I made a New Year's resolution to redecorate our family room, and I expect that being more knowledgeable about feng shui will help me to decorate the room in a way that will make it more comfortable and inviting. Our family room is an odd shape: more than twice as long as it is wide, with a great stone fireplace at the farthest end. I don't know much about decorating to begin with, and this room has had me stumped since the day we moved here.

I don't know anything about the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute, other than that its website looks really impressive, and the way that the classes appear to have scope and sequence resonates with that part of me that's been a perpetual college student. I hope to learn a lot -- and I hope my expectations are not too high.

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In Two Swans Yarns news: Spring products are beginning to arrive: The Kasbah and Bamboo Tape Collection books from Rowan, along with more colors of Calmer and of Summer Tweed. (I'm still on the lookout for the new shades of Kidsilk Haze that I've ordered.) I'm working on getting all of these listed on the site.

Posted by Karen at 11:35 AM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2007

FEBRUARY 15, 2007

Last night Jennie and I went to a reading sponsored by University Book Store for Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell, two authors who are married to each other. We chose to go to this event because Byron Katie was among the many, many authors mentioned in that book I've been raving about, This Year I Will...., by M.J. Ryan. What little I know about Byron Katie is that she's a modern-day guru, and her message is that reality is a projection of your own mind. When we'd received our monthly flyer in the mail from University Book Store, Jennie was enthusiastic about going to a reading by Stephen Mitchell, because she'd just read a book of his, The Frog Prince, and thought it really charming and witty, and a worthwhile read.

Stephen Mitchell is probably best known for his translation, published in 1988, of the Tao te Ching. Byron Katie is probably best known for what she calls The Work, which is a method of questioning one's thoughts. What Byron Katie has observed, from her own life experience, is that people get trapped in their beliefs about who they are and about how the world treats them or should treat them, and these thoughts cause a lot of suffering.

The book this couple was promoting, the one that the reading was from last night, is A Thousand Names for Joy. The premise of this book is that Stephen read aloud to Katie his translation of the Tao te Ching, and then she dictated her responses to him. (She has a problem with her eyesight and is going blind.) Thus, it's her commentary on the Tao. Stephen bills her as being "an innocent," someone unschooled in any religious traditions.

There was something very touching and very sweet about it -- Stephen Mitchell would quote a line from the Tao te Ching, and then say, "And here's what Katie had to say about it --" My husband should dote on my every word, like this. Stephen Mitchell did all of the reading aloud, last night, but Byron Katie interjected comments here and there, and entertained questions from the audience.

And there was quite an impressive turnout -- not standing room only, as it was for Annie Leibovitz's reading, but the lecture hall was three-quarters full. Byron Katie was instantly recognizable when she entered the room for the reading. She was dressed in solid, charcoal gray: a turtleneck and long skirt, and then a drapey wrap type of garment with close cuffs at the wrists that she wore over the turtleneck and skirt; the charcoal color perfectly set off her white hair. There was a cluster of people in the second and third rows who raised up their arms and pumped their fists in the air when she walked in, so glad they were to see her.

Now, Dear Reader, I'm sure you're wondering what my take is, on all of this. When I went to U Book Store last week to buy the book and the tickets to the reading, and I was standing in line to pay, I opened the book and read the first chapter. And I very nearly put the book back on the table, I thought it was so patently awful. Each chapter begins with a sentence from the Tao te Ching, and then is Byron Katie's free associations about what that might mean. Why do I want to spend $24.95 to read somebody's stream-of-consciousness responses to the Tao te Ching? I was a Philosophy major (and damn near have a Master's in the subject); I can ramble on about the Being of the Non-being with just as much authority and conviction (after all, Katie writes: "My experience is that there's no one with more or less wisdom; we all have it equally") -- and save myself $24.95, to boot.

But I'd made a commitment to Jennie that I'd come home with tickets for the reading, so I went ahead and bought them as well as the book. I've been reading a little bit of the book, every day, out of curiosity, and to pass time while getting in those 10,000 steps on the treadmill each morning.

And here and there in the text, nestled in among the parts that I think are mere rambling, are also things I agree with. Sure, reality is a projection of our own mind, and sure, people do get trapped in their stories ("I'm unlovable" or "I'm important") and then bring their own pain upon themselves ("He doesn't love me" or "They didn't treat me with the respect I deserve"). People get caught up in what they think should happen, and then are unhappy when the world doesn't deliver. This isn't news; we know this without needing to read A Thousand Names for Joy.

But here are some things I hadn't thought of before, or at least, hadn't read put in quite this way before:

At one point, Katie writes: "If I believe that I should be doing anything other than what I am doing right now, I'm insane." And that sentence was so profound, it stopped me in my tracks with a gasp, right there on the treadmill.

And when she writes about doing good works in the world, she writes: "Love is action." Yes! How could any statement be more true?

When I woke up this morning, I thought about the get-up that Byron Katie wore last night. It was reminiscent of monk's robes. Or is that merely a projection of my own mind?

There's a part of me that's very skeptical, very cynical. I think it's disingenuous for Stephen Mitchell to claim that Katie is "an innocent" who knew absolutely nothing about the Tao te Ching and thus her responses are fresh, influenced by nothing other than her open mind. I think it's disingenuous because how could she be married to the translator of the Tao te Ching and yet be completely unfamiliar with it? (But it probably doesn't matter whether her responses came out of the first time she'd ever heard the Tao te Ching, or the thousandth time. And my pointing out this disingenuousness does not in any way take away from my earlier observation that it was so touching and so sweet that Stephen Mitchell wants to show us: "Here's what Katie has to say about it -- ")

There's a paragraph at the end of the first chapter of A Thousand Names for Joy where Byron Katie writes about a man who pulled a gun on her. The story is completely ungrounded in time, place, details. I cannot believe the story because it is so ungrounded. This was one of the reasons I so very nearly put the book back on the table and walked out of U Book Store without buying it.

Byron Katie can write that she doesn't see herself as a spiritual teacher, and that if people see her as a guru, that's simply their own projection -- yet, she's the one who dictated the book that's supposed to teach us how to live in harmony with the way things are, and she's the one who put on the monkish-looking clothing. Looks to me like she's meeting our projections....

Posted by Karen at 10:43 AM | Comments (5)

February 06, 2007

OUT OF THE BROWN RUT

I have an ironic view of life, so it was no surprise to me that the additional Satakieli colors I had ordered -- with the full intention of having them available at the Madrona retreat -- arrived the Monday after the retreat was over. Obviously, I'm still getting used to predicting how long it will take for these yarns to arrive from Finland. Two of those colors are browns -- call them milk chocolate and dark chocolate -- I'd ordered for one particular knitting friend. When she showed up at my booth in search of them, and I had to let her know that those colors hadn't come in yet, she declared, "That's it! I'm getting out of my brown rut!" And she proceeded to buy some vibrant pinks, reds, and greens.

If you're curious, the new-to-Two-Swans colors of Satakieli are Orchid, Milk Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate.

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And, hot off the presses: Rowan 41 is here! It contains several patterns for that yarn I can never resist, Kidsilk Haze (I show only two of the several on the Two Swans site). I can already feel the start-itis kicking in, although I'm committed to finishing a couple of other projects first. Really.

Posted by Karen at 12:45 PM

February 04, 2007

SELF-IMPROVEMENT

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I'm overdue for writing about 2007 New Year's resolutions. But you know me, I'm all over 'em. Every January I have the habit of reading a book about goal-setting, or getting organized, or time management. Some of these have been very abstract and philosophical and lacked nitty-gritty advice; others have offered simplistic answers and lacked depth.

This Year I Will..., though, is the best one I have read in a long time. (I liked it so well that I'm re-reading it this month, every morning while I walk my 10,000 steps on the treadmill.) And you gotta love a book with the rhythmic, nearly iambic, subtitle: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True. There's enough big-picture material here: The author says, wisely, that you're not really working on creating a new habit so much as building character. There's information about brain research that satisfies the part of me that loved taking classes in Educational Psychology. And this book is loaded with solid, practical advice.

As just one example of practical advice out of the dozen offered in this book: Set up some kind of a system so that you can keep track of the work you're doing on your goal, even if that system is just a check-mark on the calendar. "You can also keep a diary -- journal keepers, say researchers, achieve their goals faster than others."

This reminded me that I recently came across the knitting journal that I had started as my New Year's Resolution in January of 2006. The purpose of it was to keep me focused on projects so that I could get them completed. I saw that the last entry I'd made was in May of 2006; I'd felt too discouraged to continue with it because of the hours spent knitting on the first version of my Level 2 vest only to have that vest become a prototype; in general, I seemed to be doing more ripping than knitting in those first five months of 2006. If I was recording anything, it seemed, I was recording negative progress, over and over again.

At a Feral Knitters meeting last month I mentioned to June that I'd come across this knitting journal of mine, abandoned in May. And she said that she'd kept hers, faithfully, all year, writing in it every evening. She finished a whopping total of 60 projects in 2006 -- and she said that keeping track with a journal had really helped. 60 projects!

Do any of us need any more inspiration than that to sharpen our pencils and grab the nearest spiral notebook?

Posted by Karen at 08:45 AM | Comments (3)