Monday, May 17, 2010


Soon I will be one of these picnickers, lounging on the banks of the Neckar and enjoying some sunshine.  The next three weeks, however, are crunch time for me.  I have my general comprehensive exam coming up - first a 6-hour written exam followed up by an oral defense of that in front of my faculty.  I'm facing this exam with a bit more equanimity than my Greek exam, which I took this last January.  After all, this will be in English, and there's much more leeway to argue about what I've said than when translating passages.

Still, it's tough going at times, and my thinking sometimes feels like that canoe: not quite going with the current and feeling the drag of sluggishness and confusion.  Still!  Three more weeks and I'll be off!  Never mind the next hoop, waiting for me in the Fall.  I'll have several weeks of glorious nothing.  Actually, a lot more than nothing.  Travel, family, sunshine, knitting, sniffing, tasting.  Given, of course, that I pass!  But I'm vowing to stay confident and cheerful to the bitter end.

And then it will be smooth sailing.  Till then, I must say ta-ta-for-now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Making: Forest Canopy Shawl for Mother's Day

I've been waiting to blog about this one - I finished this weeks ago, but since it was for my mother, and she reads this blog, I had to wait.  I must say, this has been the most challenging and gratifying project I've knitted.  Being new to lace knitting, I had no idea what to expect.  But the pattern for the Forest Canopy Shawl is perfect for first time lace knitters.  Here the link for the pattern.

This is what it looked like while still on the needles... pretty darn unimpressive.  And all those red threads?  Those are life lines that I kept putting in to hold my place in case I had to rip back due to some horrible mistake.  And, believe me, I had to rip back.  Luckily, I got better as I went along, and ripped back less and less.  In the beginning I was so discouraged, and knitting seemed like it had become an exercise in futility and frustration.  I almost decided that I was simply not a lace knitter.  Sweaters and mittens I could do.  Lace?  Why do something that makes you curse and throw things?

But something magical happened when I finally slipped it off the needles, washed, and then blocked it (on a hideous old mattress, I must say).  The lace opened up.  The pattern came out.  And I thought: I made that?  As an academician, these moments are hard to come by.  Rarely do I write something or argue something and think: There, that's settled.  That's correct.  In fact, the whole enterprise of research and theory requires that we keep questioning our work.  It can be rewarding, no doubt, but there's a certain oomph of finality that's lacking.  This is why I gravitate towards knitting and baking: these are crafts where the question (can I do this?) gets firmly answered (yes! no!) at least to a more certain degree.  Of course, I'm sure the deeper I go into either of these crafts the more I will find that is theoretical and debatable, especially as craft moves towards art.  But, for the time being, it is very, very satisfying to say: I made this! 

We took these on the Philosophenweg, in the forest, in honor of its name.  I call my individual shawl, however, the Sea Canopy, given its wonderful shades of blue.

Raveled here.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Making, Wandering, and Feasting: May Festival at the Neuberg Abbey

This last Saturday we celebrated May Day at an abbey nestled in the grassy hills of Neuberg.  It all seemed so magical: here I was, in Germany, going to a Maifest with monks! Beer! A spitted ox!  It was so Christian and pagan all at once - we were inviting the new spring to come in but doing it all in a sanctioned cloister of godly men.  (I was less interested in attending the festivities for Walpurgis the night before - it basically involves tramping up the Philosophenweg at the dead of night, which would be great fun except that in this instance you'd be surrounded by drunken university students carrying fake torches.  If it were more pagan, and less drunken-college-party, I would go.)  Anyway!  The abbey grounds were indeed lovely.

 It was a pearly, gray day, and the walk there was nice and refreshing.

The monks run a shop full of local products, many of them made at the abbey.

Fresh eggs!  The eggs in Heidelberg, in general, seem fresher: the yolks are a brighter color, the shells often have a bit of down stuck on them.  It may not mean anything, but it seems a bit closer to the earth to me.

I am a weak-kneed fool when it comes to bottles and jars of handmade goodies.  Witness that I have 1) my own homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam at home as well as 2) unfinished jars of quince and plum preserves from a local restaurant.  So what did I do?  Promptly bought a jar of apple-ginger jelly.  Good thing I am not a drinker or I would have made off with a few bottles of monk-brewed apple brandy and what-not.

We were promised a whole spitted ox (it said so in the adverts) but we apparently arrived too late: the earlier May Day revelers had gnawed that thing to the bone!  Though I must say, this is a small ox.  "Must have been a baby ox," I remarked, to which my friend said, "Please don't say that again!"

Never mind, we had excellent roast trout and potatoes,

we watched the monks imbibe,

and did some imbibing ourselves (along with some Feuerwurst and pretzels).

And the walk home in the twilight, along the river, was lovely.