Thursday, July 9, 2009

Square 34: Stone

Square 034

My friend Paula is a landscape architect. She called recently to see if I could help her install a patio at a friend's condo. It is a new kind of project for both of us. A lot of soil and gravel needed to be moved. My body has responded sometimes ungracefully to the change of pace, with back spasms and heat exhaustion. But I enjoy working outside, getting in shape, and getting to know Paula better. We're a pretty good team, and at times my contribution has been palpable in terms of ideas as well as brawn.

The patio itself is an interlocking design with rectangles of different sizes. It requires precision and a good eye. Paula noticed that I'm patient with measurements, so much of the stone laying has fallen to me while she works on other aspects of the design, particularly the pond.

To cut the stones, she rented a heavy hydraulic tool called a guillotine. It slowly presses two thick blades into the stone until it snaps along a clean line. I spent two days cutting pieces to fit around the edge of the patio.

Paula suggested that I would make a good stonemason. She observed that I was "really into it."

"I've worked with many people," she said. "Some are good with stone and some are not. I'm okay with stone, but you have a natural affinity for it."

I've always thought of myself as a water person, but her comment was interesting. As a teenager I built a rock garden on our bluff overlooking Lake Erie, and at Lake Fletcher I have built a woodland garden with stepping paths made of naturally-flattened pieces of granite found around the cottage. Come to think of it, I have always loved working with stone.

You never know what paths may open.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Square 33: Pinatubo sunset

Beautiful sunsets frequent Lake Fletcher, but for several years after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991, they were especially spectacular. Our cottage faces northeast, so I used to take my camera out in the canoe after dinner, around the point to see the entire glorious show.

One evening I paddled eagerly to photograph the most resplendent sunset I had ever seen. Bright orange filigree laced the underside of a vast purple monument reaching high into the atmosphere.

In the middle of the lake I discovered the camera was out of film. Bitter was my disappointment. I would not be able to show anyone.

Then I realized, it was a moment just for me to absorb and enjoy. Much pleasure in life comes from sharing experiences with others, but why should it be so hard to appreciate this beauty privately? I pondered that question at length. It was the first time I remember considering I should learn to enjoy my own company. I sat for a long time in the canoe, residing in the moment.

I used to spend lengthy prayer time seeking the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, an esoteric aspect of God that could bring the power of faith to my life. Now I believe what I really need is to indwell my own self, to be fully conscious and appreciative of each day and what I in my native state can bring to it. I frequently fail. Anxiety particularly likes to get in the way. Jesus spoke wisely when he said not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough of its own trouble.

Consider the sunset, here tonight and gone tomorrow, but for the moment arrayed in greater splendour than anyone could amass in a lifetime of back-breaking labour.

When Mount Pinatubo erupted it ejected 17 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. The stratospheric aerosol cloud persisted for three years, reducing average temperatures globally by about half a degree Celsius, causing floods and famine, sharply depleting ozone levels, and bringing glorious sunsets.

That particular evening was lost to film and I never considered recreating it any other way until now. The orange yarn is Canadian, superwash merino from Mission Falls, and the variegated pink-violet-cerulean is Japanese Noro Kureyon. Both of these I picked up in a recent visit to The Purple Purl, a knitting cafe in Toronto's east end. There's also Icelandic yellow Létt-Lopi, local purple from Wellington Fibres, and deep burgundy Cascade (also Canadian) for the silhouetted earth.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Square 32: Anniversary

Square 032

I met Danny for the first time at his house on July 4, 2003. He was wearing a red t-shirt. I was immediately attracted to his glossy dark hair and beard, and courtesy.

Danny likes coffee, chocolate, peanut butter and sweet things. He dislikes carrots and watermelon. One of his favourite things that I make is an easy potato recipe for the cottage: dice potatoes with some onion, put it on a large piece of foil, add a pat of butter, salt and pepper, roll up the foil and put it in the top of a hot barbecue for about half an hour.

He taught me how to knit and is also an accomplished knit designer and spinner. He loves all kinds of fibre but is allergic to angora. I can’t tell you his favourite colour (he is always experimenting with something different), but he likes blue.

He grew up in Thompson, Manitoba, a northern mining town. The hustle and bustle of Toronto sometimes wears him out, so he enjoys getting away for the weekend to my place in Guelph, or the cottage. He likes quiet evenings at home, and sleeping in until 10 on weekends. One of our favourite ways to spend an afternoon together is playing Cities and Knights of Catan, Starship Catan, or cribbage. This weekend we taught ourselves two-handed Canasta. We also love walks by the river or through the woods.

Danny is a relaxed, easy-going companion. He can be silly. When he laughs hard he starts to snort and can’t stop.

When I have something important to tell him he will always listen. He is patient, and brings out patience in me, too. When I was younger I used to lose my temper, but since I met Danny it stopped happening.

For this square I used some leftover Noro Silk Garden he gave me, shifting from dark blue-grey to bright green. I like the way it blends and contrasts with the background forest green Cascade, one of the unifying yarns I have been using throughout this project. The red is Ashley’s house yarn from All Strung Out.