Saturday, May 26, 2012


Last June, I proudly placed my first yarn bombs under cover of darkness on the eve of the First International Yarn Bombing Day. Next morning, I walked out my front door to see a neighbor staring intently at the crocheted light-pole cozy that had appeared in his parking strip. That yarn bomb, along with a similar one across the street, is still in place, as are several of the small crocheted flowers I hung in neighbors' yards.

Indeed yarn bombing has turned into a year-long preoccupation. I have placed small motifs (stars, hearts, flowers, etc.) in various places along my pathway: chain link fences, hospital beds, car antennae, mail boxes, cacti, trees and shrubs, etc. The edges of my light-pole cozies are ideal for testing new motifs. Virtual yarn bombs have adorned my Facebook page as I post photos of notable examples, such as the steps of Helsinki Cathedral covered with afghans -- not technically a yarn bomb but a display of donated items to be distributed by Finland's Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters.

Yarn bombing has also been a component of my household organizing effort. Reducing the size of a massive yarn stash will bring order to my designated crafting space while weeding out colors I would not personally wear, use for decor, or inflict on friends and relatives.

And that's not all! A yarn bomb in the form of a large rug-yarn granny square, elaborately fringed, will soon appear in our front garden to replace the stylized 'welcome spring' yard flag that has flown there a bit too long. Visions of a filet crochet jack o' lantern and a giant fluffy snowflake portend an endless sequence of seasonal yard flags to come.

With the Second International Yarn Bombing Day coming up in just under two weeks, I look forward to making a more complex and public installation: crocheted covers for the three arm rests on each of two local bus benches. The public transportation milieu seems uniquely appropriate for yarn bombing, as I have spent many hours knitting and crocheting on buses, trains, and planes. Ironically, arm rests on bus benches are not provided to give comfort or rest. Their purpose is to keep people from lying down. Who likes to recline across a 2" diameter piece of steel pipe?

It will take a long time to sew or crochet six heavy 30" strips onto the bus benches, and of course I'll have to sit on wire mesh while doing it. How long will I want to sit out there at night? Will it be too dark to see what I'm doing? I'm tempted to start my installation in advance. Two strips per night (one en each side of the street) seem like a reasonable quota and will test the venue.

Ars longa vita brevis, eh?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

trollope caves

In trollope galop, I wrote that Anthony Trollope's autobiography was "stashed on my Kindle,"* and not long afterward I started dipping into it. I'll admit that there are some long tedious sections, but along the way I have been moved to read two more of Trollope's novels: Orley Farm and The Way We Live Now. I just started on The Vicar of Bullhampton and am relishing the pace.

Trollope's definition of the novel is something like: "development of character over time."** Though he claims not to plan his plots, each character's story emerges and will be told as long as the author maintains his self-imposed writing schedule.

Much of Trollope's autobiography is taken up with detailing his literary standards and commenting on his contemporaries (he loves Thackeray, hates Disraeli, respects George Eliot, etc.). So far (and I think I am about two-thirds of the way through), one anecdote of Trollope's life has made me laugh out loud, and I must retell it.

After taking an early retirement from the Post Office Department in 1864, Trollope increased the rate of his literary output. Whenever he was in London for more than a day, he would write at his club, The Athenaeum. One afternoon when he was working on The Last Chronicles of Barset, two clergymen came into the room, sat down by the fire, and proceeded to discuss Trollope's novels. The author, of course, perked up his ears and listened very carefully while the two reverend gentlemen complained that he re-used the same old characters too often. In particular, they found Mrs. Proudie (the Bishop's wife introduced in Barsetshire Towers) to be most objectionable. Trollope was incensed. He stood up, introduced himself, and said something like: "Very well. If you don't like Mrs. Proudie I shall kill her off within the week!"

Accordingly, Mrs. Proudie's death scene is horrific. After orchestrating her sudden massive heart attack, and allowing several other characters to feel relieved by her passing, Trollope felt quite guilty, and was haunted regularly by Mrs. Proudie's restless ghost.

Personally, I love the way characters and places recur in Trollope's novels. I am happy to learn that Bullhampton is near the Chiltern estate, which I recognize from the six-volume Pallisers series. I could have handled more of Mrs. Proudie, and in fact was disappointed when Obadiah Slope, her evil minion, left Barsetshire.

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* Now all of Trollope's 47 novels are stashed on my Kindle in a single volume.

** Not a verbatim quote, but this is not a term paper and I'm not going to look these things up.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

bulbine by any other name

At least fifteen years ago, I rehearsed for a play reading at the hillside home of one of the other characters. I think his name might have been David, and will call him so for purposes of telling this story.

David had a large and diverse garden including many succulents. I was drawn to one I'd never seen before, a grassy-looking plant with round leaves about ten inches high, and sprays of tiny yellow or orange-and-yellow blossoms borne on slender stalks rising up to twenty inches above the tops of the leaves. The stalks were so slender, in fact, that the flowers seemed to float above the plants, giving the illusion that they were hovering butterflies or tiny birds.

I asked the name of this fascinating plant, and David said, "I don't know. We always call them the little orange and yellow things." He gave me a generous handful of cuttings, and said, "Don't tell Marsha! She wants some of these, but I've refused to give them to her." Marsha, a mutual friend, was also involved in the play reading but wasn't with us on that day.

The little orange and yellow things did beautifully in my garden, and after having been tried in various places they've pretty well filled up the narrow strip between our driveway and our neighbor's driveway, interspersed with dogbane, various aloes, jade plants, and lion's tail, which supports the orange part of the color scheme. From time to time, I would continue to search for the name -- on line, in books, and at nurseries -- but the little orange and yellow things just had to do.

And then late last fall I finally joined the local garden club and took my mystery plant for identification. "It's bulbine!" said our knowledgeable president, and sure enough -- Wikipedia's illustration was a perfect match for the yellow ones (with some of its 160 species native to South Africa and some native to Australia), while the bi-colored ones turned out to be the rarer Hallmark variety.

I can't say I like the name bulbine very much, and so I'm going to call mine asphodel after their more poetic relatives.

BTW, I recently offered little orange and yellow things to Marsha, but she wasn't interested. Maybe she'd like some asphodel.
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License