Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Knit Fast, Die Young
in Sabotage colorway,
from Spincycle Yarns.

Dear Needled,

I want to suggest, today, a website:  Spincycle Yarns.  A few days ago a friend and I met the charming young proprietresses at a Stitches West Convention. You might ask what is Stitches, and I did too, several years ago when I was taking lessons in learning to spin fiber on a spinning wheel. (Someone out there, I am hoping, took my earlier admonition to learn to spin-in this post and the next).

 Spinning yarn began, for me, at the Maker Faire. There was a kind and charming woman there, too, and she was spinning wool on a drop spindle, which she offered to us to try. I bought a little bundle of chocolate wool roving from her, and went home to build my drop spindle out of an old cd.  I made an un-even and beautifully hard-twisted and kinky ball of yarn with my drop spindle, and then I used it in knitting a hat.

 The next thing to try was the spinning wheel. If you are like me, and I know that you are, dear pals, you have seen them, inverted wooden unicycles, in museums, even in a few people’s homes.  You will have read about dear old Sleeping Beauty, and the other one, who had to spin gold from straw, and these poetic images have been murmuring quietly in your mind for years and years, beckoning.

I met a learned elder spinner at the local guild, and she offered classes, so I signed up. Let me say, at this point, that spinning wool is simple- you don’t even need a drop spindle to do it - the fiber can be rolled on your thigh, or twisted in your fingers. It is simple. Making a yarn that is uniform, and juggling the twiddly bits of the spinning wheel is, however, a little tricky to get the hang of at first. I was really quite discouraged at my classes, because the other student was a whiz at making uniform yarn. I don’t know why she thought she needed a class- she recognized and knew the names of all the obscure spinning accoutrements: Niddy-Noddy, Diz, Lazy Kate. She also knitted perfect even stitches into perfect even garments which she wore to class and was duly admired in and for. It was interesting, this envy I had for her flying fast fingers and her fumble free thumbs, because I didn’t even like her sweater- limp, lifeless, burgundy thing, who wants a burgundy sweater in a teensy weight yarn?  I wanted sweaters that looked handmade, that were lumpy and colorful and fabulous, and unlike anyone else’s sweaters. I desire this same quality of wabi-sabi in pottery, paintings, and baked goods.

But I digress, this class mate of mine was a talented and gifted spinner and knitter. I was not, and I am not, but spinning was still fun and I still learned to do it, and I still love to do it, and I hope you will try too. Be patient with your fingers and remember to breathe and let go of the fibers, so they can run up into the orifice and wind around the bobbin.   Elsie Davenport's Your Handspinning is a good book to consult if you want to get started without a lesson.  I hope one day I can show you how to do it on my spinning wheel, Taddy. I’d love to introduce you to my loom, Brid, too, and maybe tell you the tale of their former owner; wonderful, inspiring, & kind; Ursula.

The woman who taught me to spin, a dynamo of a woman, mentioned Stitches to me (yes, of course the Burgundy Sweater knew about it already!), and just now, I finally went to their Marketplace, which is a cavernous indoor space filled with little sections of wonderful things to look at and buy. I was very lucky to get to attend, but you are lucky too, because I am giving you the website addresses of the best of what we saw at Stitches, and you can go there anytime of the day or night and plan your new sweater, hat, or scarf: Maybe even in a nice burgundy color....

2 Guys Yarn Company.

Coco Knits.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cloud Bank of Blossom/Winter of Robins

Dear Watchful,

Near to here, there are many old almond trees from a mad tulip fever of almond orchard speculation that the area experienced 100 years ago.  Every February, a beautiful, delicate and fragrant cloud of blossoms appears above a near by town.  I was driving West, towards this heavenly cloud bank a few days ago.  It continues to grow thinner - many trees have been cleared away and houses dot the hillside in larger numbers than the trees now. The trees fall in winter storms of their own accord, too, and some become too old to bloom much.  Only birds and woodland creatures harvest their fruits.  These beautiful remnants are blooming now.  There will come a February when the blossom cloud will not rest above the town; The delicate white flowers will not perfume the breeze, and these old friends will cease to be the harbingers of Spring.

There is always something to watch, and almond blooms this year, still, portend the Spring.  While winter is still here, at least, calendrically speaking, I offer you an ode to this year's remarkable winter of robins.

Winter Tide Robins


They swooped out of an orange cloud bank, one storm-edged sunset:
A winter flock of Robins. 

Late afternoons they gather to greet the gloaming.  A noisome fluttering of hundreds,
with chuffing clucks and sharp zeet-tweets, together with a shuddering of wings colliding with leaves,
like a window shade accordioning up and down; like a lace-edged Spanish fan, shutting abruptly: rápido.

They take hours to arrive and settle- to find their branches.
Boughs begin to bend with their weight.  Invisible in the
leaves, they are shoulder to shoulder and cheek to cheek- A dense packing of red breasts.

The sounds fade and the sallying birds dwindle.

Where are they all day  Where were they this time last year?

Where are they all day?  A widely spaced pack, they are legion.

Sixty flap in from the North and settle briefly in a tree.
Then another wave from the East.
The first group lights out, and another hundred approach, circling from the West.
The dusk sky is spattered in all directions with Robins.

This flock, it might be much larger than the yard-
They may reach as far as the main road.
Maybe over the ridge, across the stream.
Maybe as far as the Salinas.
They might stretch eight miles to town.
They might be over the coast; they might be in the desert:
Monterey and Inyokern.

A poet, at the sea, begins a haiku about their rufous chests.
In town, a folksinger pens a ballad to their numbers,
and miles and miles away, at the unknown edge
of their winter gathering, a novel's first chapter commences:
The winter robins darted over the house.



A bit of local almond history.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wings that Work.

Anselm Kiefer.
Book With Wings, 1992- 94.
Lead, tin and steel.

Dear Icarus,

Need wings?  Want wings?  Check if yours will float you, on this interesting, but difficult to use website that simulates air flow over your wing designs.

If you want to use wings a little more metaphorically, like the wonderful Anselm Kiefer sculpture above, you will need to abandon your computer, and head out with a pencil, or tin snips, or a can of spray paint.   I saw this compelling sculpture many years ago and it has stayed with me all this time.  Abided, if you will, flitting into my mind, whenever a liminal bird/book is required.  Like right now.

Wings, I say, wings for everywhere and everyone!

Meet some of Anselm Kiefer's work here.  Meet Anselm Kiefer here.  You might also be interested in a modern story of Icarus- and Daedalus- type escape craft:  The Colditz Cock.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

candy kisses

Dear Friends,

Love Lucy with me, won't you, on this day for love?

Would you care for another candy kiss, wrapped in paper? 

Wishing you love.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Way of the Folk.

Dear People,

I know, I know, I just called yesterday, but this is good, and so worth your time.  Many of you will have *seen  or read it already. 

Here is a link to a transcription of an acceptance speech by Bob Dylan, from the LA Times.  You will want to read it if you like Bob Dylan, if you sing, if you listen to or play music, if you make things, if you write, if you read, think, wonder, or ponder.

To sum up its key message, a few words from Elliott Perkins, who is on staff, here at the Dodo:
I think what [Dylan] said about playing songs and sharing songs contributing to writing songs [is] compelling.  I mean, it's obvious to anyone who's ever made anything that there is a basis for the things, so it's not news, but the examples he gave were so clear that it was illuminating to read them.

I think that in contemporary discussions of art, particularly visual art, but writing also, there is a focus on originality, where Works of Art stake out a space that can't be shared.  It is refreshing to hear someone of such obvious accomplishment and clear vision dismiss that, explicitly.

Years ago, here at the Dodo we followed the advice of a bumper sticker that one used to see regularly, and we killed our television.  There is a television set in the house, but it lacks 'reception,' and it only plays what we permit it to:  The occasional dvd or vhs tape.

What did the newspaper tell?  What did the television squall?  They said:  I'm troubled and I don't know why. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Umlauted über ukes.

Dear Umlaut Users,

You have noticed, I am certain, that 'über' and ukuleles are in.  Way in.   I saw the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain a few seasons ago- they played Rolling in the Deep.  Do you require further instruction?  You will want their website:

Another thing:  Adele.  She says she taught herself to sing by listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James,  and Roberta Flack.  Well, allright!  Let's see if we cannot all improve by studying:  One, Two, Three.

See you at the ukulele shop!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Touched by the Pixies

Dear Shane,

I don't know where you learned to be who you are, but I got a lot of my best stuff from old movies.  For example, I learned how to part one's hair from Veronica Lake, and how to slouch and squint from James Dean.  Have you seen that slouch?  His whole being is draped & dripping over his skeleton, and it communicates a carelessness and a beguiling come-hither.  It's dynamite; pure dynamite.  I learned to how to be funny from Lucille Ball, and how to do everything from Lauren Bacall.

Yet, there is still more to learn from old movies.  I learned a most excellent new vocabulary word from Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (no, not Mr. Smith Goes To Washington) a few weeks ago- Pixilated.  It isn't the word that means ugly little squares of digital data, that word is pixelated.  This word has a second letter 'i' and it is used to describe one who has been led astray by pixies.

It's The Talk Of The Town, this word, use it for the forces of good, and love it, as I do.


I learned how to use garlic in a sauce, too, from another old movie with Jean Arthur:  If You Could Only Cook.  Too bad You Can't Take It With You, but Only Angels Have Wings.  The More The Merrier, I say, but The Devil And Miss Jones is one of the best.  Oh, dearie me, Where Is My Mind?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

To Do: Done.

Dear Achievers, both Over and Under,

Isn't it fine to be done?  I have reached this year's goal of shooting the duck.   Make no mistake, the secret to success is in setting goals that you know you can get done.  I always set a goodly pile of achievable goals at the beginning of the year, so I can be done with such things early, and get down to the fun part of the year:  i.e., the rest of it.  There are some tougher goals, to be sure, but I don't bother with those.  I hope you don't either, but if you do, I wish you luck and happiness in your pursuit of them. 

To date, I have added a bookshelf to the hall, and sewn a pair of pinstriped wool slacks.  So, what is left?  Finishing a large white painting, and a knit hat, cutting my hair like Carrie Brownstein, and trying to read a Doris Lessing book.  It's good to have goals, and it is good to have done with them. 

It has you wondering, I'll bet, if it might not even matter if you get anything done.  You may be on the right track; and isn't it grand and liberating?  Join me in shooting the duck, if you like.