Sunday, April 19, 2009

orange crushin'

Well, gosh. If I'd known you all were still here I would've come back sooner. :) Thanks for the comments on my last posts. Shout out to Trista, to whom I must say I don't understand my mortal fear of lizards either, especially since I'm only really afraid of them when they're inside the house. Saw another one while sitting on the porch and it was no big deal. When they're inside the house, I seem to think the next thing I know they'll be inside me. ACCKKK! I'm considering following my neighbor's advice and getting intervention.

Okay. No more lizards. May they live long and prosper. Outside.

Inside, where it's usually safe, I made this.

It went to Steven's new goddaughter, Soleil. It's superdeeduper cute, because of the great pattern and pretty yarn -- yarn that was once going to be a sweater for me, you guys know how these things go. The pattern is from "Nashua Handknits: Bloom," which you have to dig around to find. I do recommend the effort; "Bloom" has many lovely projects.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

and she rises, this easter morn

This is why you shouldn't wait nearly a year to go running.

I wanted to get up early enough to catch Jack and family on their way to church. They live directly across the street from me, and I can't say why I'm so fascinated with their comings and goings, but I am. Maybe it's the classic American family in action thing. Mom. Dad. Three kids (as far as I can tell). Two dogs. A crew of cats. A car and a mini-van. Foreign to me not only by upbringing, but as a result of city living, apartment dwelling, all my adult life.

My grandmother used to say, when she'd catch me sleeping in on a summer day, Get up! White folks done been up. I was raised to be concerned with what white folks were up to, because they knew the right way to act. These white folks across the street apparently didn't get the Easter Sunday memo, the one that says be at church before 9 to beat the crowds and shuffle the kids into Sunday school for the Easter lesson. When I went to get something out of my car, Claire, the mom, was outside in her pajamas, fishing through the mini-van. We're going to have our Easter egg hunt inside, she yelled over to me. It's gonna be wet today. You going to church? I yelled back. Yes, she said. At eleven.

Hm. Eleven, I thought. Maybe my grandmother didn't know so much about what white folks get up to after all. (ETA: It's 12:07. I'm still writing this post, and they're back already. If church was this short when I was growing up, I might still be going.)

I was outside because I was preparing to go for my first run since I've lived here. I've fantasized about it for weeks, usually while my mouth has been stuffed with cookies. I knew it would happen on a Sunday, and this one seemed right, so off I went, through the wonderland of Bellaire, Texas.

Bellaire is a well-to-do hamlet inside Houston, a city in a city. It's kind of where white people go when they want to be alone. Today marked the first day I'd ever seen it through anything other than a car window, and, I have to say, it's a really nice place. When you're running, or walking, or skipping too I guess, people wave to you, even the cops. Granted, the only other black person I've seen who lives in this neighborhood I saw on the news. The cops shot him while he was standing unarmed in his own driveway. They didn't shoot me this morning, but I made sure to run with my hands up.

It was a perfect morning for running -- not too warm, cloudy, only a tinge muggy. I took along my camera phone to share some pictures. There are great street names like Lula and Betty and Effie and Cynthia and Valerie. My favorite is Phil. I love that there's a street named Phil, and I love the street itself.

It's a neighborhood in transition, meaning you can see what middle-class meant 50 years ago versus what it means now. Now, houses are three times the size they used to be. Most of the houses look like this.

But I'm drawn to the older ones. This is my favorite. Of course it's on Phil Street. And it has the tree of life in front of it.

Here's some Easter flora for you.

I love this door best. Someone, at some point, was very optimistic.

Home again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

i know it's not your birthday, but i brought you this dead lizard

Isn't it hard to come back to a place when you've been gone so long? I'd still be thinking wistfully of what to post and when if it wasn't for Natalie. She says my presence here matters, and that it's good for me, so here I am.

A day in a life is difficult to summarize, so I'm not going to attempt nearly two months. I'll pick up from where I am now, which isn't too far from where I was. It's still me and Mira, down here in the wilderness of Houston. Mira spends most of her time chasing anything that moves, including dogs and other cats, outside. I was in the habit of leaving the door cracked so she could come in and out at will, until yesterday. That's when she came galloping in as usual, then lay on the floor and started batting something around. At first I thought it was a leaf, then a voice said, Look again. By that time she'd laid the thing at my feet. It was a lizard, a dead one. It looked like a rubber toy. Do I need to remind anyone how I feel about lizards? Didn't think so.

Yet again, I ran like my hair was on fire. I called Natalie, then Schmin, so as not to be alone with the thing. Mira had already brought it closer to where I was, then ran back outside for more fun. I threw an old towel over it, and a huge flattened box because I didn't want Mira to pull the towel off. I broke camp first chance I got, and didn't return until I thought my neighbor's kids would be home. Thank God for my new hero, Jack, my neighbor's six-year-old. When his mom asked him if he'd pick up the lizard for me, he shrugged, like, Why not? What's the big deal? and I offered to sweeten the pot with 5 bucks. The whole time he was picking it up, I was jumping around hollering Don't let me see it! Don't let me see it! It probably crossed Jack's mind that I'm nuts, but little kids meet you where you live. Today when I saw him, he didn't avoid me, so he hasn't written me off, probably because of the money.

Aside from hiring children to save me from the wilds, I'm doing a bit of knitting, and dreaming of making a quilt. My last quilt, which I pieced donkey years ago, is the only thing I've sewed since I've been here. The one night I spent quilting it was one of my least favorite sewing experiences, and I haven't picked it up since. I like to sew, not break up wrestling matches. My machine and this quilt gots no love for each other. I will complete it, because it's for somebody special (whose mom will get me if I don't cough it up -- Hi, Mo!).

But, you know, inspiration strikes and you want to do other things. I've wanted to hand quilt for a long, long time, since way before I started knitting. Because I'll burst if I don't get to do it soon, I got the Gee's Bend books from the library. I have a big project that's overdue at work, and I've told myself that as a reward for finishing it I can buy whatever I want to make the quilt.

All was well with this plan, until I woke up sweating underneath my down comforter the other morning, with the Gee's Bend books in bed right next to me, and got to wondering what would be the harm in making one quick, simple project by machine, because I'm never going to find a summer bed covering that I'll like as much. Since I couldn't argue myself out of this, I went to Ross today and got some sheets and pillowcases for fabric. I don't want to spend a bunch of money on this one, and I'm not feeling up to torturing myself with too many choices in a fabric store, so the sheets seemed like the best alternative. I'm not going to use any filling, since it'll be hot as tarnation down here in a minute anyway.

At Ross you can't stop at what you go in to buy. This orange delight jumped out at me while I was innocently strolling by, so I bought it, too.

Well. Hello. I'm back. I won't be such a stranger, and I hope you won't either. I'll leave you with some quotes from the great ladies of Gee's Bend. If I try to say why you should pick up these books, if you haven't already, I'll start to cry. The women of Gee's Bend, and their incredible quilts, are just the whole of life.

I never did like the book patterns some people had. Those things had too many little bitty blocks. I like big pieces and long strips. However I get them, that's how I used them. I like to sew them however they be. I work it out, study the way to make it, get it to be right, kind of like working a puzzle.... My husband, Lucius Young, and me had nine head of children -- six boys and three girls. He got killed in a car wreck in 1970. We didn't get along so good anyway. He treated me bad with other women. -- Annie Mae Young (b. 1928), whose quilt is featured on the cover of The Quilts of Gee's Bend.

I always loved sewing. I made all my children's clothes. Didn't need a pattern. Same with quilts. If I seen a dress or a quilt or something I liked, I can make it. I just draw it out the way I want it. In the quilting bee time, I started using patterns, but I shouldn't have did it. It broke the ideas I had in my head. I should have stayed with my own ideas. I kept making quilts all the way up to last year. I still got the feeling every now and then to sew, but I just don't have the mind to do it now. My hands are good, but I ain't quite got the spirit. -- not like before, when I'm always ready, day and night. Age got me. -- Nettie Young (b. 1917)

What I first did, I showed it to my daddy, and he was amazed over me making it.... Whatever we did, my daddy always just carry it up, you know, and that made us do better. He wouldn't never say That ain't right or You didn't fix it like this or like that. He always made much of it. That made us feel good, you know: "Pa said it's alright." -- Amelia Bennett (1914-2002)

I worked for two, three families. I worked long as I could afford satisfaction. When they start to complain, I might go someplace else. The last job I had, I worked for her for thirty-one years down in Gastonburg. Ora Laird. They say she was a mean lady, but I could get along with anybody once I found out their ways. I enjoyed working for her because she didn't ever tell me what to do. Not even what to cook for dinner. She say, "I ain't no cook. I eat. You the cook; cook what you want to." I never think I'm a good cook, but everywhere I work they said I was a good cook. I hate cooking." -- Polly Bennett (b. 1922)