This morning Polly was curled up in my lap enjoying the benefits of my soft cushy lap surface as well as the nearness of a warm toasty fireplace that is now regularly lit and consistently crackling away beside me. I’m sure she wishes that I stayed put in my chair for hours on end instead of constantly popping up and down to do the myriad of tasks that accompany any normal given day. Wood needs to be hauled inside, fires need to be coaxed to light, gardens tended, orchards pruned, and of course…those bills won’t pay themselves. So yet again, I moved to get up. As Polly tried to get up with me, one of her claws got stuck in my sweater. Howling and panic ensued as she finally realized retracting the claw in question would actually set her free. This happens often. We choreograph this dance ritual of weird gyrations accompanied by high pitched vocals. It usually ends with me swearing to her that I didn’t do anything to her paw to cause such pain and in turn, she looks woefully at me as if I purposefully held down her sweet little innocent paw out of mischief. She broods for awhile and then eventually climbs back up and curls up on my ample lap again and decides I’m trustworthy once more. Sweaters, blankets, stockings, and scarves all have large pulls of yarn hanging clumsily above the smooth even threads. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to smooth these yanked loops down enough to make everything look normal again. I was looking at my sweater this morning and thinking of the term normal again…how to make my sweater normal again. Outside of sweater and kitty cat issues, I hear that term a lot lately. Aside from loopy loops of yarn, I keep hearing people around our little village echo the sentiment, “I wish life were normal again”. More often what I also hear is being asked as a question, “Are we living in a new normal these days? Are we supposed to get used to this new normal?” You can guess what this is reference to…and if you can’t guess, I’m referencing the undeniably surreal and horrific gun violence that is coining phrases like “new normal” and “mass shootings”.
I’ve been thinking about these newly coined terms quite a bit lately. So much so, that just a mere glance at my pulled sweater yarn can set off a string of thoughts.
We’ve had the most beautiful summer and fall filled with weekend road trips, stops at roadside produce stands for homemade loaves of hearty honey wheat breads and freshly picked corn, visits to the quaintest historic villages in New Hampshire with their shop windows filled with overflowing flowers, and fun noisy urban treks through Chinatowns in both Montreal, Canada as well as in Boston, MA. On these uninhibited weekends filled with unbridled schedules, we’ve tasted the most delicious steamy ramen soups at small unassuming family run kitchens, sampled chunky little bites of delicious goat cheese at Sugarbush Farm near Woodstock, VT, and greedily licked off sticky fingers of cream cheese frosting from arguably the best cupcake maker – The Cupcakery in North Conway, NH. All of this fun and lively activity is so normal. Normal fall weekends that entice us with the siren calls to embrace the sights and sounds that make up sought after road trips in New England. These weekend treks are like the smooth threads of my sweater that lay uniform and neat without a pulled out loop demanding attention. It’s that pulled out loop though that is catching my concerned eye more and more. In between unfettered fun, I’m having a harder and harder time trying to smooth life back down…wishful thinking doesn’t cut it. In between jaunts up and down the hilly terrain of New Hampshire and trekking up the hairpin curves that hug the edge of the autoroute that winds to the top of Mount Washington, normalcy unapologetically and tauntingly fades into the background upon our return. The week days are more often than not filled with one news tragedy after another and yes …and when I say news tragedy, I am loudly and clearly referring to the barrage of tragedies involving gun violence that is happening non stop as week by week our beloved country demands that we accept that darned loop of thread sticking out, yanked out, wrenched from the other threads that are lying down as a new set of normality. Even with listening and absorbing the rhetoric that punctuates these surreal, horrific, unimaginable events that are occuring on a weekly basis, the normalcy that we are all trying to maintain is becoming harder and harder to smooth out, tug tautly, and yank down to be flat and even once more. “What are we going to do?” we all turn to one another and question, “why can’t we all pull and sort these loops out?” Whether we like it or not, or want to or not…normalcy, as we wish for it, is suspended in midair…it is elusive…it is becoming impossible to feign nonchalance. These lumps have become no small annoyance. People are dying, children are dying, families are being systematically destroyed each and every week. None of my sweaters are going to look normal again with their weird loops and pulls hanging down like dog’s tongues when they are panting with fatigue. I can handle that. I don’t care so much about my sweaters. But, the reality that is engulfing us as we digest one horrific news story after another is now a reality that I will not accept as “a new normal”. If it were just a matter of sweater yarn fixing, I could stubbornly refute that I don’t know how to knit. Honestly, I really REALLY don’t want to learn how to knit. I wish my sweaters would just fix themselves or I wish I could just give it to someone else to fix for me. Please, someone fix it…because I don’t want to learn how to reknit it. How utterly privileged am I to assume the problems plaguing this country can be solved this way? How utterly privileged I am to assume and to hope that someone else will fix our problems for me.
I’d better learn how to knit. I’d better learn how to unravel the mess that used to look like a decent sweater and learn how to do my part to fix the tangles before me. The tangles happening in the world outside of my sweater, outside of the travails of my kitty Polly, and outside the warmth of my comfy chair where I like to type are becoming too loud, too horrible, and too dire to ignore. Even though I’d rather ignore the tangles, I’ve decided I’m going to have to learn to knit. I’m going to learn to unravel the mess I see before me. If I don’t, I’m pretty sure that all I’ll see soon is a ragtag wardrobe of loopy sweaters all around me in the future. Knitting sounds like such a trivial solution. We all know knitting has nothing to do with anything but where how my imagination process real world issues. But, I’m becoming certain that it’s these small efforts by each one of us that must be taken to collectively unravel the much larger efforts that need to start happening more from not only our corner of New Hampshire…but from Texas…over to Oregon…and down to New Mexico…everywhere in between too. I think it might be time for all of us reluctant ones…to learn how to knit.
Fresh produce from the garden this year: tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, cauliflower, yellow squash, sugar snap peas…but no luck with watermelon
The beautiful captivating Maine coastline. Filled with lobster shacks and antique shops.
Chinatown, the Old Town, and art galleries in Montreal, Canada
- 1 butternut squash, halved and seeds scooped out
- 2½ to 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground curry
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt, for garnish
- Toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled with sea salt (anything really!), for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash, cut-side-up, on the baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Scoop out butternut squash flesh and transfer into a soup pot or braising pot along with 2½ cups of broth. Blend with an immersion blender (or a stand blender) until smooth, adding more broth if needed.
- Pour the soup into a pot, set over medium heat. Mix in the spices and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Divide amongst bowls and top with sour cream or yogurt, nuts or dried fruit.
- Yield: Serves 4 but you can double the recipe and have some to freeze over the winter months.