When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Chasing Autumn.

Fall is my favorite season. It's so happened Larry loves it the most as well. I mean, we love SEASONS, first and foremost, all four of them - Earth changing every few months, from beauty and warmth of the summer, to changing colors and dropping leaves, to being covered under snow and asleep to waking up the new green...But Fall holds special. Add to it that my birthday is smack in the middle of Fall - you get the point. Where I used to live, the colors of the Fall are on fire! I miss it dearly, deep reds, bright orange, burning yellow...Texas disappoints every season it turns. So, every October, around my birthday, I am on a quest to find real Autumn.
Real Fall in Maine, 1996
Last year we went to Park City, UT, and caught wonderful Aspen fire on the hills of the mountains.
This year, flying didn't work out, so the closest drive I could come up with was to Arkansas. We stopped in Hot Springs a few years back, and loved how conveniently located the main mountains is, right in downtown. Hot Springs National Park was The First piece of land in USA back in mid-1800's that was designated to be protected by federal government. Yep, it was worth it back then, and surely worthy our visit! We might have miscalculated by a week in terms of midst of Fall colors, but Autumn is not just a red-orange-yellow. In fact, the REAL real Fall is "brown, then down". It's about the air, the smells, the sounds of fallen lief under your feet, the half-naked trees you can see through. It is so much more - all of it we did get in the trip.

We stayed in a wonderful little house less than half a mile from the Promenade with Bath Houses - but secluded in the woods. Amazing what a busting town it used to be! All who-is-who used to come here for bathing in hot springs (a nature's wonder!), hike the trails and do physical therapy and training. From Babe Ruth to Presidents, and it certainly was major baseball hub. How time changes things! The town grew outwardly, and only 2 bath houses are open. But still, it's a gem.

The first day we did a short 3 mile walk-around the main mountain behind Bath Row, then enjoyed walking Promenade, drinking beer (even I did, and it was tasty!), and coffee (The Best coffee place we've been to!) and some food.


For the second day Larry researched all the mountains around and connected them in a BEAUTIFUL 16 mile hike/jog with 3,000 feet of gain, starting right from our house and ending at that coffee shop. What a paradise! The words won't make justice, but the ever-changing terrain, trees, covered path under our feet, the views around and afar, the clouds making it more fall-like (and easier to hike without sweating buckets), old stone features. We had all those miles and hours to ourselves! Only handful of people in half a day in the woods. What a great excursion into Autumn...how much we can't wait to be around hills that are alive in every time of the year!












Upon return, lunch and a shower, we did a more relaxing, touristy walks, and set by the fire at the house to eat dinner. All in all, a great success of chasing Autumn!



On the next day's drive home, we made a circle to "touch" the state of Louisiana, the number 44 state for me in search of visiting all 50 states in US. Only 6 to go (Alaska, Kentucky,  North Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Iowa). And to end on a high note, while almost asleep in the car (with Larry driving), as we made our way through a small town, I woke up to a cobblestone downtown - and a sigh of a yarn shop. Almost jerked of my slumber, I exhaled "Stop!", and we made a visit to a neat little yarn, with very nice lady owner, and got some yarn (but of course). With that, we are ready to some cool air coming down to Texas, too, please!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Knitting: it's like life. Almost.

I am sure nobody whoever reads this blog is really into knitting. However, I am. So I decided to dedicate a whole post to it. Not to worry to all those who does read this blog from my running times - I am still running. In fact, I've been a very consistent at it since the end of August, which is awesomely amazing, considering how my previous whole year (from Oregon PCT hike all the way to post-CA PCT hike) has been the worst where running is concerned, distance and pace altogether. So, indeed, I am running 5-6 times a week, 25-45 miles a week, and some runs really give me lots to smile about. As well as a confirmation that I, still, plan to sign up for two of those races I decided to do next year, once registration opens up. But I regress from the purpose of this particular post...

Recently, back in September, Larry and I went to Dallas/Fort Worth art district (a.k.a. a couple of Art museums), as well as I finally had a nice wondering visit of a very high quality yarn stop afterwards. Together, these two burst me right back into my creative spirits. How come? The whole 2017 seemed to have been stagnating where knitting comes (in my eyes). I only went to one yarn store (while in Hawaii for a wedding, it was sort of short stopping by with not much selection) - and that was a plan, as I had plenty of yarn at home to get through, and too much of it actually works backwards on my creativity, as it overwhelms me. Anyway, I made a nice shawl for my sister-in-law's wedding, then took 7 weeks off knitting as a Lent resolution - hoping to re-inspire. I did, as I pretty quickly made a similar, but larger and using two colors, shawl for my mother-in-law's birthday in May.

While on Lent, I returned to my old (other) hobby of cross-stitching, and that was fun too. Last I did that was when I just moved to Texas, back in 2009. I enjoyed getting back to a detailed counting and a different outlet.

For the following few months, a couple of things were happening: I was on a quest to re-make a number of my wardrobe items to make them perfect, complete, more complex (or, simplify some) and finished. It was a great thing to do and put the time and effort into.
One of the re-makes.
Another agenda I had was to grind through most of the yarn I had in my 2 bins. A lot of it was from Russia, which was gifted to me by my sister from her friend's old stashes - so, while solid wool yarn, not the quality I love to work with for myself, nor the color palette I use. There was also yarn purchased over Internet with some sales, yarn gifted to me, and just yarn I forgot I had. I successfully utilized pretty most of it for various gifts, donations and give-away's: hats, scarfs, shawls, a set of 20 hats for veteran's running camp, few things for a charitable contribution for my friend's benefit auction ...I also made a couple summer things for myself, and that was fast and cute, but mostly, a grind of simple "keep your hands knitting"...while very good for the soul as a matter of giving back and gifting away, pretty boring for expressing myself as an artist deep in my soul. My thoughts were coming back to how I read "The Artist's Way" book back in April and how I kept writing my morning journal without breaks. Where is my creative flow?
  

In the meantime, in a passing conversation with one of my massage clients, she asked if I have a photograph of myself from early 1990's knitting. She was doing research for the movie of sorts. I gave her a couple to choose from (the only 2 I did have from that era, as I was back in Soviet Russia, at the ripe age of 20). One was picked, tentatively.
                 

Time went on, one of my girlfriends had become a grandma - twice in 2 months, by no design of her two daughters! - so I piled through a couple of baby blankets. And a couple of hats for another person's kids.
And THEN the Dallas trip happened. You see, yarn shopping is almost like a religious experience to me. yarn shop (a good yarn shop) is a happy place for me. My spirits lift up as I absorb, walk around, see the colors vibrantly play, touch various skeins, feel the texture, inhale the smell...PLUS the exposure to the REAL art...You know what else did, simultaneously? My photo was approved for usage in a new movie, so I received a contract giving up my rights, discussing reimbursement - and being excited of some "future relation" to Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig (wonder which one is going to be me in the past??)
All those things blew my mind - as I had a couple of nights of insomnia, something I haven't had in a few years - and this time the nights were filled not with bad thoughts, but by my overactive mind creating new designs.

You see, I rarely (if ever) knit by pattern (come to think about, those two shawls for my in-law's were from a designed pattern, so it just proves I use it when my own art flow is blocked). I create my own as I go. Often enough I start without being firmly certain what is it going to be, and a very vague idea what will be "on it". As I go, the design of the clothes item, as well as pattern, develops. It may change a couple more times as it goes, and it also depends on whether I have enough yarn, have to add something, or cut it short and make a different item from where I was. That said, when creative juices start flowing - I need to start knitting, because, since I can't even draw my stuff, I will forget what I wanted. I have to make a cast-on row, then proceed a few more, identifying the potential material (a.k.a. yarn), pattern, and then, if needed, I can set it aside.

With the visit to museums and a wonderful yarn shop, the were way too many ideas (and I still had a few birthday presents to produce). With that, I casted on not 2 or 3, but 11 (eleven!!) projects, using ALL my needles sets (in fact, I bought one new set at that yarn shop as well, and it was super-useful). And I still had 3 more ideas in my head (much simpler, so I was OK to hold on to those). That "madness" lead to this kind of mess for a week:
But once I settled in, by Sunday, a week from the beginning of it all, I was much calmer, and focused on no more than 2 projects at a time - a more normal routine for me. By Monday, I was done with my first item - which was a re-make (a 4th one for this yarn set, hopefully final! and it also freed yarn for one of the presents I want to knit). I loved the result, and moved on to the next idea.
This one was a vest sort of thing, using 100% linen. The first 2 skeins of this company linen was purchased in Kauai. For 6 months it set in the bin, as I knew I didn't have enough for the idea I had (I had knitted a couple of similar things for my friends, so I could picture it quite well). When I came across same color and name brand at the Fort Worth store, I got one more skein. What do you know, it was made in Japan, but the first two - in Italy! Same brand, same company, same color...slightly different texture. I kept wondering if I should abandon my idea, but as I kept slowly working, a new design of the kimono-vest-shawl appeared in my head, materializing into a very nice combination, and in which nobody, but myself, would know the difference. At the end, it was a bit too much yarn - which allowed me to add an endless scarf for the set. It was a good thing the scarf was from that extra skein - the Japan version feels a good deal more "silky" (go figure, Japan vs Italy?), and that is a nice thing to have around your neck. This knit may end up being a gift to someone, as a set or separate pieces, unless I manage to sell it (if I ever figure out how to sell my items, and no, I am not doing Etsy) - green color is just not my favorite, and I have no idea why I keep buying yarn in green. Probably to force myself into variety away from my beloved blue and grey:)

In the same pattern as that last endless scarf, I am knitting another one as a gift for one of my girlfriends (by the way, this particular hole-slip-double pattern I actually found online, but it has no name attached). There is also a pair of socks for my girlfriend's mother who's house was flooded during hurricane Harvey disaster.


Next thing I am more actively working on is a top from cotton yarn I picked up at the Fort Worth store. When I got it, I pictured it'd be that tie-dye quality with lots of shades of blue. Which, you know, is my favorite color:) What a surprise I had when I pulled a thread out of the middle and realized it is going to be rainbow palette! Wow, am I a touch too old for that? But, I decided to have fun nevertheless. It is going to be a bell-bottom short-row style (shorter in the front, longer in the back, in a round-way) simple top knitted in just sock stitch (with the color change, any pattern will juts take away from the piece). Here is what it looks like now:
Next on agenda will be a long jacket for my sister (holy wow, my sister asked me to knit for her, not one - I have already finished a shawl - but two things!). I am utilizing a yak wool I had in two versions knitted previously. I had to eliminate the brown color (3 is already too many for my classical style sister in Russia), and because mine was also a short cardigan, I had to purchase 2 more skeins of yarn (thank you, online shopping and Google!). A fun fact, a couple days ago I was telling my sister Tanya over the phone about that extra yarn, and mentioning in humor "Don't you dare get rid of this jacket, the yarn itself cost me $130" - there was a heavy pause on her side of the line. I am sure she wished she would have never asked...poor woman, who not only knows unfamiliar with prices in Russia vs America, she is the most frugal person I've met. Well, as I always said, good quality yarn is worth every penny, to knit with and to wear.
And then there is this absolutely breath-taking yarn of angora I couldn't not hold my hands off - I got it a full week after the Dallas trip, at our local Hill Country Weavers store. I rarely go South in town, but I had a coffee date with my friend, and the store happen to relocate right next to the cafe, plus they really did an amazing job remodeling inside and updating quality of their yarns! I was so impressed, probably beat all the stores I've seen, with their huge windows, natural light, and fantastic selection. The inspirational idea for what I am going to make from this yarn came that evening, as we watched some YouTube videos on Voice in Russia, and this came up (I, of course, look nothing like that, but I love this!).
There is also a cowl I've been making since the beginning of September, from the yarn I believe I got in Salt Lake City in 2013 - it's been sitting around so long, I even lost the tag, so I am guessing by feel it is Alpaca with a touch of cashmere.                        

There are few more, all in stages of casted on yarn and set aside: socks for someone; two shawls, with yarn wrapped into the patter print-out so I don't forget, and an idea of a beautiful pure cashmere long cardigan (or a sweater, it is still not birthed fully yet).

And, of course, when I need to give my hands, forearms and wrists a break - and use a different muscle set (because I do get over-use injuries), I switch for an hour or two every other day to my cross-stitching project I began just before Dallas trip. It gives me also time to really zone out of the reality of life, as one can't do it and think about anything else at all.

As I am writing this post, approaching my 48th birthday, I feel pretty good about where I am. Yes, of course, we all have things we look back at and wish we could have done differently, but life is like that, we wouldn't have gained this perspective had we not made mistakes and side-steps and decisions that lead us where we are. I used to compare life to an ultrarunning, as well as backpacking: hills, valleys, patience, long hours training, questionable reward, results that can be affected by so many outside sources out of our control...Now I am thinking knitting has some resemblance to it as well. Ebbs and flows, changes as we go, bursts of inspirations, long hours of meticulously doing something, just to un-wind it all (or part) and have a do-over, until it fits a person I am at this moment. You adapt as you go, make mistakes, and decide either to "live" with them, or fix things up, whether right away, or later. You evolve...May be whatever is that you are passionate about at this particular time of your life - seems to represent what life is to you. You look for connections, comparing bits small and large, and feelings along the way. The Artist's Way.

This, too, shall pass and change with time, and thank God for that. As long as there is good coffee:)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Culture vs Mountains??

And to think we originally planned to go to NM and backpack Pecos mountains for a day and half...sit by the lake at 12,000 feet...inhale cool air...Literally, a few days prior, Larry walked in and said while he does have days off, when he leaves, the work doesn't stop, just piles up, and it stresses him out. With 13 hrs drive each way across Texas (a.k.a. boring) and both split into 2 days and an overnight hotel, then only 36 hrs in the mountains in questionable weather, I quickly said: lets cancel that idea. Lets, if I may ask you (with our "love" to big cities) instead check out some museums up near-by North...stay in a nice place, drink lots of good coffee, eat some yummy food. I miss culture! Having spent 11 years in Moscow (and grown up in Russia, where exposure to art and classical music is a must, and where I still, every visit, go to the places to absorb these things) and 11 years in NYC (Metropolitan, Guggenheim, Natural History, Broadway, Opera...trips to D.C. Mall, New England's history...), I often feel like dying culturally here, in Austin. OK, don't you jump at me, yeah, there is music scene (the modern one, I am not interested in), a ("a") museum and Dell Concert Hall (rarely do they have good classical pieces, mostly modern theater, again...). Anyhow, It's just not for me. And of course, I get my soul fed by trips to the mountains. But sometimes, you know, from time to time, it is REALLY NICE to be exposed to quality art.


Anyway,  the trip up to Dallas/Fort Worth was a success! PHOTOS

I loved Dallas Art museum collection, it impressed me big time! We parked in the garage an hour prior opening, and walked around, enjoying very neat park, some architectural details of buildings, both new and modern and older classical styles. Once inside the museum (free admission!), I was extremely pleasantly surprised how huge their collection is, hall after hall, and what nice pieces of art and exhibits of names they had! We took a good 2 hrs, and only left because were getting overwhelmed.



The hotel we stayed at was in Fort Worth museum district, near some sort of Domain-like new living area. Walking to coffee shops (ALL the coffee shops we visited had pour-over coffee, and if you a snob, as I am, you appreciate that option!) and to a dining place was a plus. A hotel featured great rooms, breakfast - and a gym, which I actually used next morning. We binged on house remodeling shows (we don't have cable at home) and just relaxed for the evening.


The second morning started with a short drive to and a walk inside Botanical Garden. That was beautiful, amazing, and all things explicitly positive (also free). A place where one could run, walk, sit and meditate, knit, read, have a free date, learn about plants and trees...I could spend there hours, many times. So would gladly Larry. 






Fort Worth's Kimbell Art museum (also free entry) was not as huge in terms of what they carry in their regular collection (they did have Casanova exhibit going on separately, but we chose to not get swamped in too much in 24 hr period). We didn't go to American Art - we should have, but decided we can't digest any more, so we walked to Science museum, which was a drop of $30, sort of wasteful for us, since it's so small, no exhibits, and full of screaming and crying children...oh, well, we decided to "eat" this loss as a payment donation for all the free art we saw. 




I found a new one of the best yarn shop in this country. Another place I could see myself hanging in.


What is Austin doing with it's money? So much for a great city, a Capital, and all that! And we hardly even scratched the surface of D-FW area in terms of arts/theater/symphony! Now I want to go check out (gasp!) Houston. Just need to gather strength for the traffic navigation.

We both are very delighted by the trip. I am actually truly in aw how pleased I was. In fact, I can tell you more. I am so inspired, I couldn't sleep the night after, all the creative juices leading to insomnia. I started not on one, but 8 (EIGHT!) projects all at once (had to even buy more needles to be able to do that), and now jump from one to another, like a crazy monkey - but one under positive influences of art:)

The whole weekend get-away was to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary - and my 24 years (OUCH! Exactly half of my life!) living in USA. It was well worth every moment.