The Saturday Update: Week 8

Knitting

Have I mentioned that it has been snowing a lot here in Colorado? I have several projects on the needles at the moment, but my feet were cold Sunday night and I needed more bed socks of the cashmere persuasion right away! I hit the stash, found a nice cashmere blend yarn from Western Sky Knits, and hunted around for the pattern I used for a previous pair. Oh, yeah. The pattern is in a book that is full of wonderful socks: Socktopus by Alice Yu, and the pattern is Om Shanti Bed Socks. Once I had the pattern, book and needles located I cast on and got to business; two days later I had my socks!

How cute are these? The socks are knit toe up with an unusual treatment that allows the perfect shaping in garter stitch that is repeated in the heel. I like the lace even though it messed with my head while I was doing it, and I added the garter to the top of the sock to make things look even. My project notes are here.

Do you like the slight haziness of the picture? That’s because I had a big, fat fingerprint across the lens of the camera on my phone. Sigh. Anyway, you can almost imagine how comfy they are on my feet just looking at them, right? The lace makes the sock hug my foot and they are just perfect to keep them warm while I try to fall asleep. These socks are knit on a larger gauge then you would usually use for a sock, so they aren’t tough, but they are comfy!! I couldn’t help but drool over all of the nice patterns in the Socktopus book and I’m thinking that I will be making some more socks from the book before it goes back on the shelf.

MacKenzie really likes the mohair and sock yarn mix that is making the fabric of the sweater.

MacKenzie and I continued to work on the Pebble Tunic and made some good progress on that too this week. The construction is top down in an interesting fashion; the back is completed to the bottom of the armhole, then the front is knit to match. I’m now on the front knitting down to the point where the two sides will be attached to knit in the round. MacKenzie is not impressed… he just wants the sweater to be a blankie for him while he naps.

Garden

This must be starting to become a little old for all of you… I have some orchids blooming. I’m really kind of childish about them; every morning I rush to the craft room to see if I have a new bloom. Anyway, the miniature orchid opened its first bloom this week and the monster orchid has buds forming that are just… well… they are monstrous! I can’t wait for one of them to open… any day now!

Here are the four bloomers. 
Here is the new bloomer. It is my smallest plant and the magenta bloom is a perfect addition to the garden. I’m not sure, but there appear to be two more stems emerging from the main stem holding the buds below this flower. Yay! Blooms all spring!!

As soon as the monster orchid blooms I will post the picture!

Books

I finished The Water Dancer last night and I’m still thinking about the book. Sometimes I’m not sure I liked it all that much, but at other moments I am sure that it may be one of the most impactful books I’ve read in a while. It is a book about slavery, freedom, the eternal harm of broken families, and the power of purpose and mission. There is cruelty and loss. There is magic. There is the peace of freedom and reunions. There is an enduring question: what is a good life? When I got to the end I thought: this is the end?! Later on I decided that the ending was actually pretty darn good. This book will stay with me for quite some time.

This is Black History Month here in the US, which contributed to my choice to read this book right now.

The plantation in this book is set in Virginia on the eastern coast of the United States. The plantation in this book is dying as the soil is exhausted and the crops are no longer productive enough to maintain operations; owners are going west to the state of Tennessee, and slaves are sold or relocated as operations ship to the new state. Tennessee. My dad’s family was from Tennessee, and I know that my dad was born and raised on a farm. There was that story about the runt piglet that he made a house pet out of, and the time the cow came down with rabies… Out of idle curiosity I googled my maiden name and the word “plantation” to see if I would get a hit.

Suddenly Black History Month took on a whole new meaning for me. There was a return on the search that told me that there was, indeed, a plantation that carried my maiden last name. It is located in North Carolina just below the border with Virginia, the location of this book. There are testimonials from slaves with my last name in the National Archives. There is a town that has my last name, and it is located in an area of North Carolina with a lot of Dutch influence, which matches my maiden last name’s history. I know that my father’s family relocated to Tennessee from an eastern seaboard state. The history of America that is in this book is part of my history, too.

Suddenly the book had a lot more meaning for me. I am crushed. I am full of sorrow. I am only responsible for the actions of my own life, but I am burdened now by the thought that the pain, struggle, need for autonomy, and recognition of personhood that these slaves lived is also part of my history. I was raised in another part of the United States, California, and live and worked in integrated communities, but my roots on my father’s side go back to this.

I mentioned The Water Dancer last month to another member of my book club as one we might want to read. “Oh,” she said dismissively, looking at the book, “I think we should only read books by authors whose names we can pronounce.” Seriously? Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a big deal. Just sound it out!! You should have a last name like mine, or a chronic disease that no one can pronounce (scleroderma). Whatever. I took her comment to be racist or xenophobic.

I let it go. I wish now I had not. I’m glad I read the book, I’m not happy that I did that google search, but now I’m on the hunt for the story of my family in America. Ancestry.com, here I come.

Author: Midnight Knitter

I weave, knit and read in Aurora, Colorado where my garden lives. I have 2 sons, a knitting daughter-in-law, a grandson and two exceptionally spoiled cats.

26 thoughts on “The Saturday Update: Week 8”

  1. Your new socks look so cushy! And the sweater looks cozy as well – MacKenzie certainly thinks so 🙂 Your flowers are gorgeous – I would always be checking on them too. That definitely sounds like an interesting and powerful book. I will have to check that out!

  2. I’m never bored of your orchids, I’m jealous as I appear to be killing mine, but love to see yours. The bed socks sound and look lovely.
    We get some episodes of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are and it seems most celebrities on the episodes I’ve seen had ancestors who owned plantations and owned slaves. I think the only one I recall didn’t was Sarah Jessica Parker whose ancestor was the last to be tried as a witch in Salem. We can not control our past and our heritage but we can certainly strive to do our best to make a difference and know better and do better. It sounds an interesting book. I’m currently reading My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, I suppose the lady at the book club wouldn’t like her name either…I’d just keep suggesting books by a range of authors and encourage the group to broaden their horizons. You could try suggesting this one, it was one of the books at the top of Goodreads books of 2019.

    1. I have seen that show, and I even remember the episode with the Salem connection. I thought at the time that they probably selected people who had interesting connections as to be frank, America is a nation of immigrants and almost everyone I know can tell you their countries of origin as it really wasn’t that many generations back. My mom was Swedish-American, but my dad’s family had been here so long that he was kind of boring to me as a child. You know, an American mutt! Now I’m looking at things with different eyes and I want to know about that side of the family. Hey, I do know that one of my immigrant ancestors was named Kelso… is that Scottish?

      I will be taking a look at My Sister the Serial Killer book – I think that I saw it on a list for the best books of the year. Thanks for the tip!!

      1. Yep Kelso is a town in the Scottish Borders (below Edinburgh). The host family I au paired for also used to refer to the land their ancestors came from Poland and Ireland. I know some UK stars have wanted to be on that TV show but their past wasn’t interesting enough to make an episode. My dad has done his family tree going way back and his ancestors were Welsh. He even discovered his own dad had another child he didn’t know about and now he has a new nephew and niece and I have 2 new (half) cousins! He just found them last year and DNA proved it.

      2. Wow! This makes me want to get going on Ancestry.com, but I think it can get expensive. I’ll see how fast I can get with the free portions since I already have a lot of info.

      3. Yes maximise the free trial and get clues. I know my dad has spent a lot of time in Liverpool and Birkenhead libraries reading electoral register trying to check his dad’s movements in the 1930s. He seems to have been a right rascal! Lol

  3. Those socks look incredibly comfortable. I think you are brave for searching into your past, knowing that there might be slave ownership. You are doing what we should all do, taking a hard look at our ancestors and how what they did is still impacting the world today.

    1. The socks are just perfect to wear under the covers! They stay on but I can work them off if my feet get too hot.

      One of my great-aunts on my dad’s side of the family did a ton of genealogy and even self-published a book of all her information, so I have a lot of names and dates to start out with. It was remembering that there were properties in North Carolina before moving to Tennessee that prompted me into that initial google search. This is a huge shift in how I view my heritage… I knew that they were farmers, and that a couple of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution, but didn’t really know more than that. Time to start digging, I think!

      My mom’s family immigrated from Sweden. They will be harder to track as they haven’t been in the US all that many generations. My grandmother could still understand Swedish.

  4. Your socks are beautiful! I can see how soft they are:) I bet MaKenzie would like a blanket made out of that yarn:)
    Your orchids are beautiful!! I was at Whole Foods the other day looking at their orchids. It took just a moment for me to return to my senses and realize it would suffer a quick death at my house. Thanks for sharing yours:)

    1. I really like this type of yarn; its superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon. MacKenzie does think that it was made just for him…

      I used to kill orchids regularily! I’m glad that I can share the ones that are still alive. 🙂

  5. I’ve always been interested in my family’s past and genealogy; I feel some strange, almost mystical connection with my ancestors and I believe we do carry them and their past in us, although I’m not sure how to explain it (genes? generational trauma? the way how they all raised their children and what they taught them, the wisdom they passed?). I knew a lot of the family history up to early 1700s, but a lot has also been missing. Last year I decided to buy a 23andme kit and I learned that some of my ancestors were Jewish; I was able to track that family branch to Ukraine, particularly Odessa – and turns out I still have a lot of relatives there. I know what you mean when you say how difficult and challenging it can be to face that painful past; in my case it is the past of being both the victim and the victimizer during the Odessa and Ukrainian pogroms, and since I’m originally from Poland, it really changed how I see my country now. It’s a country where a large part of society was practically wiped out during WW2, and if you know where to look, you can find their traces everywhere. Knowing that this is also my past is such a painful yet important thing for me.
    And ouch, your book club member’s comment really sound very xenophobic, it’s so dismissive of the wealth of culture, knowledge and experience of all the people from outside of the English-speaking world…

    1. Wow, what a lot you found out! I have thought about taking one of the gene tests, but I worry about possible medical insurance issues for my children and grandchild (I’m in the US) since I think I’m packing the genes for some rare diseases.

      I completely agree with you about that xenophobic comment! Towards the end of my teaching career I taught biology to immigrant/refugee children who were learning English. I learned so many rich lessons from children from all over the world who had survived events that I could only imagine. A girl from Mali wrote me a poem that still makes me cry. A pair of siblings from Myanmar explained their national symbol, a bird sealed in a tree to raise the young, using pictures and limited words, their faces shining in excitement to teach me about their culture. I could write a whole post! Shame on that lady with her small worldview and unwillingness to engage the richness of human experience. She does love to read, so maybe she’ll get there eventually. 🙂

      1. Yes, I also wonder how secure the DNA data is, and I understand the worry about the insurance!

        You had some wonderful experience with people from other cultures; that is something I love about living in Dublin – I met so many people from all over the world and learned something about their cultures, their countries, and above all – that in the end we are all just the same! 🙂

      2. My dad did his DNA test through Ancestry, rather than 23andme. I’m pretty sure that one doesn’t given any details of genetic conditions and predisposition to certain illnesses. Just told him which regions his ancestors came from and also confirmed he’d had a brother because my new half cousins DNA was already on there. So that one shouldn’t cause problems with insurance. That’s the UK Ancestry…maybe double check the American one is the same.

  6. What a terrible, close-minded thing to say! They’re going to miss out on so much wonderful writing with that attitude.
    Your socks and jumper look sooooo comfy and I wish I could reach through and squish them.
    And thank you for sharing plant photos – I’ve managed to kill an aloe vera plant and some unidentified succulents so vicarious gardening is the best for me!

    1. You know, I have been knitting squishy things! They are really fun to work with. It must be all the snow! I slaughtered a jade plant last year by over-watering. Poor thing. Good thing I’m figuring out orchids. Glad to share.

  7. Your description of The Water Dancer makes me think I need to move it up on the list of books I want to read. Have you been able to follow up on any of the personal connections you mention?

    1. Not yet… I have the materials that I have lined up and it is one of the projects in my long term projects list. The catch is that Ancestry costs can add up really quickly. Hey, where are you located at? My Dad’s family lived in Brownsville, TN.

      1. We are outside of Greeneville, about halfway between Greeneville and Asheville, NC. I’m not sure where Brownsville is but will look it up!

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