Sunday, December 27, 2020

We're at a crossroads. Which way will we go?


I think you all know by now that I'm taken with the idea of liminality -- the place or point at which things meet. Dawn and dusk are liminal times. Beltane, in early May, and Samhain, in late October, are also liminal times, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest.

This period we're in now -- the days between Christmas and the New Year -- has traditionally been another liminal time. I've heard it has to do with the calendar; in an early version, each month was assigned the same number of days, leaving a period of several days between the final month of one year and the first month of the new year. However these extra days came about, they became a sort of time out of time, given over to feasting, merrymaking, and all sorts of mischief, encouraged by a Lord of Misrule

Then, of course, the Catholic Church got hold of things and turned the party into the twelve days of Christmas.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. 

I saw a striking image on Facebook a few days ago. It showed a crossroads in a desert: a road crossing over an arroyo or a seasonal stream. The caption suggested that 2020 -- the whole year -- has been a crossroads. And in many ways, I think, it's true. Modern life as we know it came to a screeching halt in mid-March, once we had an inkling of how bad things were going to get. A lot of what transpired afterwards was pretty awful. I don't have to enumerate the bad stuff -- all of us were there. 

But good things happened this year, too. People got married. Babies were born. Some folks discovered they liked working from home. Others recovered from cancer or some other terrible but non-COVID-19 illness.

For me, on the whole, 2020 has been a good year. I was able to retire from my day job on schedule, and I moved from the East Coast to New Mexico when I'd planned to do so. I'm a homebody anyway, so not being able to see people in person hasn't bothered me much. Some things have been inconvenient, to be sure, but overall, life unfolded for me pretty much as I expected it would. And yes, I know how lucky -- how privileged -- I am to be able to say that.

Regardless of how 2020 treated each of us, we are all standing, now, at a crossroads. The New Year stretches before us, bright with promise for some of us, shrouded in mystery for others. That's not metaphorical. Once or twice in my lifetime, I have stood on the threshold of a new year and could not -- could not -- make out where I would be at the end of it. In each case, those years have been marred by some personal upheaval.

That's not the case this year. When I look ahead to the end of 2021, I see myself settling in here in Santa Fe. I see the vaccines taking hold, allowing the rhythms of life -- of all our lives -- to resume beating normally. 

Or rather, beating to our new normal. Because maybe, just maybe, good things will come from having hit pause this year. The caption for that crossroads image I saw on Facebook said, in part, "Coming together and creating compassion and support will shape the future of how the planet and humanity will move forward." Those seem like worthy goals to me. 

Happy New Year, everyone.


These moments at the bloggy crossroads have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. We're so close to the finish line! Keep washing your hands and wearing your mask!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The return of the light.

Tomorrow is Yule -- the winter solstice -- and that means our annus horribilis is almost over. And not a moment too soon, I say.

It has become customary for me to post a holiday ficlet at this time of year, as a gift to all of you. As I thought about what to write, I realized what I wanted to know most was how the folks from Seasons of the Fool have done this year. Here's what I learned.

Elsie Weber-Dahl reached for the doorknob and paused. “Oh, drat,” she muttered, and reached for the top mask on the stack of brightly-colored fabric masks in the basket by the door. Affixing the elastic straps around her ears, she pulled open the door – just in time to see the delivery boy from Al’s getting into his car. He had left the grocery order on the snowy stoop, though. She waved, and he dimmed his headlights in acknowledgement before pulling away.

She sighed. It had been weeks since she’d been any farther than the end of their driveway. They hadn't even gotten a tree for Yule. She had really hoped to have a chat with another human being, but she hadn’t been fast enough. 

She shut the door partway and called over her shoulder, “Thea, dear, we need to bring the groceries in.”

“Yes, dear,” replied her wife, distracted. Elsie went to the kitchen to find out what the matter was. There was Thea at the kitchen table, her chin in her hands, studying the three-card Tarot spread before her.

Elsie rubbed Thea’s shoulders. “That Tower,” she said bitterly. The Tower was the worst card in the deck. On it, a bolt of lightning shot from the blue, destroying a brick tower and sending those inside it plummeting to the rocks below.

Thea sighed and nodded. “It’s still with us. But at least it’s in the rear-view mirror,” she said, pointing at the offending card on the left side of the spread.

“The present isn’t much better, though,” Elsie said. There in the middle sat the Death card – a skeleton on his horse, with everyone bowing to the ground before him. Elsie knew the card didn’t mean literal death – although with this virus wreaking havoc throughout the world, it certainly could. But what it typically meant was change – the end of things as we have known them – and that certainly fit the events of this horrible year, too.

“I know,” Thea sighed. “We’re still in the thick of it. But look here.” She tapped the card in the future position on the right side of the spread: the Six of Swords. Two figures huddled in a boat, their backs to the viewer, as the boatman punted them toward a distant shore. “Soon we'll be our way out.”

“They look so defeated,” Elsie said softly. Thea looked up at her and put one of her hands on one of Elsie’s, squeezing gently. Then she rose. “Let’s get the food in before everything freezes.”

The two elderly ladies donned their winter gear – coats, hats, and boots – and then took off their hats to get their masks properly affixed. “I’ll be glad when we don’t have to do this anymore,” Thea grumbled as she put her hat back on.

“We could skip them this time,” Elsie said. “It’s not like we’ll see anyone out there.”

“But we can’t be too careful, dear,” said Thea. “Not when the vaccine is so close.”

“I know, dear. I know.” Elsie blew out a breath and opened the front door.

As they brought in the last of the bags, Thea paused, her eyes on the cottage kitty-corner from theirs. A car with Illinois plates sat in the driveway, its sides splashed with road salt, and a light glimmered in the living room window. “Julia’s here,” she told Elsie as she followed her to the kitchen.

“Oh?” Elsie dropped her bags on the counter and hurried back to the living room to peer out the window. “I wonder if she brought the little one.”

“We could go over and see,” Thea said. The two women shared an excited smile. They hadn’t seen their neighbor in months.

“Let me put some cookies on a plate,” said Elsie.

A few minutes later, cookies in hand and masks in place, they walked to Julia’s cottage and knocked on the door. “Just a minute,” a muffled voice came from inside. Then the door opened and there was Julia, her own mask hiding her mouth. But her eyes and voice smiled as she said, “I had a feeling it would be you two.”

“We brought you some cookies,” Elsie said. “Fresh baked this morning.” 

A tiny person wormed past Julia and threw herself on Elsie’s legs, nearly knocking her over. “Ms. Elsie!” she cried. “Ms. Thea!” And Thea got a similar enthusiastic hug.

“Six feet, Raylee,” Julie admonished.

The little girl sprang back reluctantly from the women. “I'm sorry. I forgot.”

“We talked about this,” Julia went on, taking her daughter’s hand. “We need to keep the ladies safe.” Raylee hung her head. 

“It’s all right,” Thea said. “We won’t get sick from you hugging our knees.”

Julie took the plate of cookies. “Thank you for these,” she said. “I’d invite you in, but…”

“Sure,” Elsie said, too quickly. “Can’t be too careful.” She beamed at Raylee. “How have you been?”

The little girl sighed. “Okay.”

“Zoom doesn’t work very well for kindergarteners,” Julia explained. “It’s been a hard year. The school district tried a staggered schedule for in-person learning, but then some kids got sick. So we went back to Zoom.”

“I miss my friends,” Raylee said.

“You’ll see them again,” Elsie reassured her. “The vaccine is coming. Next year will be better.”

“No, it won’t,” Raylee said. “It’s going to be like this forever.” She turned away and flopped down on the couch.

Julia and the older ladies shared a sad smile. “Daddy will be here tonight,” Julia called to her daughter, who didn’t seem to hear.

“Are the older kids coming with Dave?” Elsie asked.

Julia shook her head. “Too much homework. Randi’s in college now, and it’s finals week. And Rich…” She looked away. “Freshman year of high school. He got behind due to all the upheaval. In-person, remote, in-person, remote…” She crossed her arms. “It’s been so hard. I’ve barely gotten any work done this year.”

Elsie’s heart hurt for Julia. She reached out to hug her, but stopped herself just in time.

“Well,” Thea said. “We should be going.”

“Thank you for coming over,” Julia said. “So nice to see you both.” Reluctantly, she closed the door.

As the ladies traipsed back to their house, Elsie said, “We have to do something for that child.”

Thea glanced back at Julia’s cottage. “I have an idea,” she said.

The next morning was still quite dark, and very cold, when the Weber-Dahls approached Julia’s cottage. Thea rapped smartly on the door, and a moment later Dave opened it. His hair was thinner than Elsie remembered, but his eyes above his mask lit up. “Hello there,” he said. “I heard you stopped by. Thanks for the cookies.”

“You’re welcome,” said Thea. “Is Raylee up? We have something to show her.”

Dave laughed. “What, now?”

Right now,” Elsie said with an insistent nod. “You, too. And Julia.”

Dave side-eyed them. “What are you two up to?” He shook his head. “All right. Give us a few minutes.”

“Dress warmly,” Elsie said as he shut the door. Then they went back to their house to wait.

A few minutes later, the Turners emerged from their front door, swaddled in winter gear. Sharing a grin, the ladies went out to greet them. “Good morning!” Thea called. “Follow me!” She stepped off smartly up the street, the others falling in behind her.

“What’s that?” Raylee asked, sidling up to Elsie – but not too close.

“This?” Elsie said, lifting the thermos she carried in her gloved hands. “You’ll see.”

At the corner, Thea turned left, toward the lake. “I knew it,” Dave said. Julia shushed him.

The wooden stairs down to the beach hadn’t been shoveled, of course, but Thea and Elsie helped each other down without mishap. The Turners followed, staying a safe distance from the elderly ladies. The breeze off the lake was sharp, but they had timed it well. They wouldn’t have long to wait.

“Raylee,” Thea called. “Remember how dark it was when we left the house?”

The little girl nodded solemnly.

Thea pointed toward the east. “What’s that?”

Her eyes widened. She turned to her mother. “The sky is orange, Mommy!”

Julia nodded. “It is, isn’t it?”

“Do you think it will stay orange?” Dave asked her. “Let’s see.”

So the five of them stood on the snowy sand, listening to the creak of the icy lake and watching the sunrise.

“This calls for a toast,” Elsie said, unscrewing the thermos lid. Thea produced paper cups from a pocket and held them out for Elsie to fill. 

“Hot chocolate!” the little girl cried as she received her cup.

As Thea finished passing out the cups, Elsie said, “Raylee, do you know what today is? It’s the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. It’s been getting dark so early – have you noticed?” Raylee nodded. “Well, starting tomorrow, the days will begin getting longer again.” She smiled at Thea. “No matter how dark it seems, the dawn always comes.”

“The light always returns,” Thea said, smiling back. Then she raised her paper cup. “To the light!” They removed their masks and toasted the return of the sun.

As they walked back home, Raylee skipping ahead, Julia told the ladies, “Thank you so much. It’s been such a hard year. I can’t wait to get back to normal.”

“We’ll never see that normal again,” Dave said.

“No, we won’t,” Elsie said. “But who knows? Maybe our new normal will be better.”

Lake Huron sunrise | ehrlif | Deposit Photos


These moments of hopeful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy holidays! Stay safe!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Why I'll never be a libertarian.

Some weeks I can find tons of things to talk about for my weekly post. This week, for instance, I could join the chorus of condemnation of an old fart who called our First-Lady-to-be "kiddo" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (things went downhill from there). Or I could address the escalating violence, and threats of violence, against election officials around the country because they refuse to overturn the will of the people and let President Trump have another term in office.

But today I'd rather talk about bears.

Evelyn Villing | Pixabay | CC0

Specifically, black bears in Grafton, New Hampshire.

You see, bears are opportunists. And they're smart. One of my favorite stories about Colorado is the one about a guy who left fast-food wrappers in the back seat of his car, which he parked near his house in a canyon outside of Boulder. A bear smelled the wrappers and broke into the car. The door slammed shut, and the bear tore up the car interior trying to get out. Some poor sheriff's deputy was tasked with opening the car door to let the bear out. Lucky for him, the bear was more interested in decamping than in attacking the deputy. (I tried just now to find a link to the story, and discovered at least one of these incidents happens every year.)

What prompted this recollection was an interview I read on with Matthew Hongoltz-Hettling, who has written a book called A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear. (You were waiting for the libertarian connection, weren't you?) It seems that in the mid-2000s, a group of libertarians went shopping for a small town that they could use as a demonstration project for a libertarian utopia. They settled on Grafton -- a town of about 1,000 people -- and proceeded to set up their Free Town Project. First, they erected makeshift housing -- tents and such -- in the woods. Then they gradually took over the town's government and did away with all those town services libertarians don't think governments should have to provide: things like trash pickup and the library and most police activities. 

The lack of trash pickup is what got them in trouble with the bears. See, there's a reason there are rules for burying your trash and locking away your food supplies in bear country: bears are both smart and opportunistic, as I said above. So when some of the libertarians decided to be radical and dump their trash however they wanted, and when others deliberately fed the bears because they thought it was cute -- well. The bears became a problem. 

Of course the town had no animal control officers, so people started trying to handle the problem their own way: shooting at the bears, setting off firecrackers, setting traps, and so on. That made the bears angry. Black bears generally don't attack humans, but an angry black bear will. And they have -- at least three times -- for the first time in the history of the state.

In the Vox article, Hongoltz-Hettling makes the point that the libertarians who tried to turn Grafton into a utopia weren't the white-supremacist type. Instead, they're the kind who believe that government should provide only the bare minimum in services in order to keep taxes low. Their theory is that individuals should be able to pick what they do -- and what they spend their money on. If schools aren't important to them, they shouldn't have to pay for them. If they don't want to pay for trash pickup, they should be able to bury their trash. And if they want to shoot a bear who's digging up their buried trash, that's okay, too.

What these folks refuse to acknowledge is that there's a social compact that goes along with being human. We agree, by virtue of being members of a society, that certain practices are for the good of the community, even if we don't benefit directly from them. Government is our vehicle for providing services that benefit the community, and we pool our money to pay for those services via taxation. We may not have kids in school, but we pay taxes to support the schools because it's in the best interest of the community for kids to be educated. We may not want to pay the town for trash pickup, but regular trash pickups are to the community's benefit.

If you don't want to pay for any of this stuff, fine -- you can do what these guys did and try to set up your own utopia. But as my friend Yvonne Hertzberger said when I shared the Vox story on Facebook: When you live laissez faire, you might get eaten by a bear.

And that's why I'll never be a libertarian.

These moments of beary laissez-faire blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Speaking of doing what's best for the community: Mask up and social distance! The vaccine's coming, and I don't want any of you to get sick when we're so close.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Trees can talk. | Here's hoping it's a Creative Commons work...
Every now and then, I come across something online that I find absolutely charming. (Apart from news about the National Zoo's new baby panda, I mean.)

This week it was a story in the New York Times Magazine called "The Social Life of Forests." It's a profile of Suzanne Simard, a botanist who specializes in forestry. Simard has discovered that trees and other plants in a forest communicate through fungi called mychorrizas. The fungi bond with the plants' roots and help the plants extract water and nutrients from the soil. In exchange, they receive some of the byproducts of the plants' photosynthesis.

But Simard has evidence the interaction is about more than just food swapping. The fungi also pass hormones and alarm signals from plant to plant -- even between different species. She has found that a so-called mother tree might nurture hundreds younger trees. Trees in the network that know they're dying will pass their nutrients along to other trees. And trees severed from the network have a worse chance of survival.

In short, a forest isn't just a simple collection of trees and other plants. It's a community. Maybe even a family. 

It's always interesting to see what people take from this kind of thing. Simard's colleagues, who were virtually all male, originally thought she was just a goofy girl -- until she proved her theories. After that, the materialists started complaining that she was attributing altruism to trees, which was impossible because everybody knows every species on Earth operates in survival-of-the-fittest mode. 

Besides all that, her findings open up an uncomfortable line of inquiry: What if plants are sentient?

I wrote about that very topic earlier this year. In that post, I quoted a Druidic philosopher named Emma Restall Orr. Here's what I wrote: 

[Orr] observes that a tree recognizes the resources available to it -- sunlight or shade, water, other trees nearby -- and adapts itself to them. It recognizes the seasons and understands what it is meant to do in each one. Just because we humans don't recognize all that activity as the sort of conscious thought we're used to, it doesn't mean it's not happening. And just because we don't understand the language of trees, it doesn't mean they don't have one.

I can't tell you how delighted I was to read this article about Simard this week. Trees do have language. They communicate with one another through mychorrizas. It's science!

Now, what you take from all this will depend on your own philosophical leanings. Some folks might see the hand of God, while others might see Lucifer spreading lies. After all, America was built on the theory of Manifest Destiny -- that God made humans the highest of his mortal creations, and gave us this Earth not to steward, but to exploit. And we are really good at exploitation. If we can make ourselves believe that a resource doesn't share our humanity, we will use it up to the last drop -- even if that resource is a Black person. Or a Native American person. Or a Tree person.

A materialist will have a lot of trouble with the idea of trees as persons. But science has proven that they talk to one another. They have a language -- we just can't understand it.

Possibly my all-time favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode is called "Darmok." In it, Captain Picard and his crew meet a Tamarian starship. The Tamarian language is inscrutable -- the individual words can be translated, but the phrases they contain don't convey any meaning. The captain of this ship beams Picard down to a nearby planet and joins him there. Together, they must defeat a dangerous creature, and to do that, they have to learn to understand one another. Picard, bless him, figures out that Tamarians speak exclusively in metaphors -- that, for example, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" refers to a Tamarian tale about two heroes who become friends by facing adversity together. Tamarian civilization is sufficiently isolated that nobody who isn't a Tamarian would know the story, which of course means no other species could ever understand them.

As a Pagan and an animist, I have to conclude that to humans, the language of trees -- like that of the Tamarians -- is inscrutable, but is nevertheless a form of communication. That's a big step toward viewing them as sentient beings. And that's something we ought to think about when we look at a forest.


These moments of sentient blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Please stay home this holiday season, so your loved ones have a better chance of surviving until next year. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

More on the Facebook page hack, plus another NaNoWriMo win.

As this is ostensibly a blog about my writing, I'll put the writing news upfront: I have won NaNoWriMo once again. Go me! 

This makes ten times I've attempted a NaNo event, either NaNo or CampNaNo, and ten times I've won. NaNo gave my avatar a cute laurel wreath to commemorate my tenth win. (The halo is for being a donor to NaNo.) I've had the wreath previously, and it has been growing bigger with each win; the info on the winner's page this time seemed to indicate I'd maxed it out.

Oh, you want to hear about the book? Well! It's a standalone (at this point) that I've been calling Janis, but the title is definitely going to change. When November started, I thought I would be writing a thriller, but no -- several curve balls later, it appears to be either a straight fantasy or a paranormal romance. Probably straight fantasy, as there are no shapeshifters. It's still about a couple of middle-aged folks who get together, after many decades apart, to act against an authority figure who hurt them both when they were kids. One of the themes of the book is that the choices we make have consequences.

Anyway, it needs a ton of editing, as well as a cover and a new title. I'm hoping to publish it this spring, but probably not right at the equinox, as the temp job will be wrapping up at that point. So I'll shoot for publication in April and hope I don't have to push it back.


So about the hackers.

First, I have control of my Facebook page again, so yay for that. The IP people pointed me toward the "I think I've been hacked" people; their Help Center info on the subject talks a lot about how you should just talk to your fellow admins about why they booted you, like I was buddies with these people. There's a link for filing a report if you actually were hacked, but it's not obvious; I probably overlooked it four or five times. Anyway, once I filed my report, Facebook promptly booted the hackers and gave me back my page.

I have now asked them twice about getting the charges reversed for the boosted posts that the hackers took out without my authorization, and I have not received a useful response. I suppose that means I'll have to go spelunking at their Help Center again. UPDATE: I asked Mama Google just now about where to request an ad refund from Facebook, found the proper place to make a report, and... Facebook doesn't think I have an ad account. Which I guess means I won't be charged for those boosts? Stay tuned!

My third concern is the slew of emails I've received over the past few months, each with a bogus account recovery code that I supposedly requested. Here's an example:

I get these nearly every day. Facebook's Help Center says someone probably typed their account name in wrong. Somebody's doing it every day? Really? 

Another thing: While getting my page back, Facebook had me reset my password. I noticed the email I received from them -- from the same email account -- provided me with a six-digit password recovery code. The bogus codes I've been receiving have all been eight-digit codes.

Clearly something's dodgy here, but Facebook doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it. Which brings me to the other thing that bugs me: This whole misadventure started because the hackers sent me a Notification from within Facebook. I gave away my personal info because nobody but a legitimate Facebook department had ever reached me that way before. I was so spooked by the situation that when Facebook logged me out and made me change my password to log back in, I didn't want to do it. How did I know the hackers hadn't gotten control of my account again?

Anyway, I have my author page back and all is well. My message to you guys, though, is to be very, very careful if you receive a message from Facebook -- either in an email or on their platform -- because it might not be Facebook trying to reach you.


These moments of anxious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Social distance! Wash your hands! Don't become a COVID statistic! 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Another knitting post, but first: I've been hacked!

lollok |

I promised you guys another knitting post this week, and I'm going to get to that in a sec. But first I wanted to let y'all know that my Facebook author page has been hacked.

A couple of weeks ago, in a moment of inattention, I responded to a notification within Facebook that looked like it came directly from Facebook. It said someone had complained about the content of one of my posts and could I verify some stuff for them. Again, without thinking, I gave away some info that would allow somebody to get into my personal Facebook account. And somebody did.

By the time I realized what was going on, a business entity called Ivo Fidriyani had claimed ownership of my page and installed someone named Linda Chhay as an admin. I played cat-and-mouse with these people (and a couple of other names that never showed up as admins on my page at all) until they bumped me down to Analyst -- the lowest possible permission setting, which doesn't allow me to change anything on my page at all.

I tried deleting the page, but there's a 14-day grace period. Every time I'd set it for deletion, the hackers would undelete it.

In addition to all that, any Facebook ads purchased for my author page are charged to the banking info attached to my personal Facebook account. And the hackers have already started to boost some of my old posts. I've set my budget to $1.00. That ought to slow them down.

I think you can understand how freaked out I've been about this. I've reported the intrusion to Facebook as a violation of my intellectual property rights. Hopefully they will do something about it ASAP. 

In the meantime, if you, Dear Reader, happen to see something posted on Facebook from my page (in my author photo, I'm wearing a lavender t-shirt, if that helps), please report it to Facebook as...whatever you think will get their attention. Fraud, if you can. Bullying or harassment will also work. If you get an option to report it for an intellectual property violation, that would be ideal. And thanks in advance.

I'll write more about all this later. Maybe next week, if I'm not crashing on NaNo then -- which I may be, given the amount of heartburn this whole mess has given me this week.


Okay. On to happier topics, a.k.a. knitting.

I completed a couple of projects while I was on sabbatical last spring. One of them was this variation on the Vortex shawl. I made it smaller than called for because I intended it to use it this winter as a table-topper for my altar. 

Of course, I have the altar set up on one of the built-in bookshelves in the new place, so now I have a lovely tablecloth with nowhere to put it. Maybe I'll use it to hide the washing machine.

Next up is my well-traveled Traveling Companion shawl. I bought the yarn a few years back at a yarn shop in Boulder, CO, that has since closed. It sat in my stash until I decided to use it for this pattern. A lot of the knitting got done on my Amtrak trip out here in June to find an apartment. I'm sure I'll find somewhere to wear it eventually.

On one of my last days in Virginia, I stopped by my favorite yarn shop, fibre space in Old Town Alexandria, to pick up something for Amy -- and found a cotton yarn that I knew would be perfect for this vest. I finished the knitting after I moved in here. It's called the Brookdale. I like the bottom-of-the-armhole detail.

And finally: Back when I was a fairly new knitter, I made a shawl called the TGV. It was stupid easy -- crescent-shaped, with garter stitch for the crescent part and three or four inches of knit-2-purl-2 ribbing on the long edge. The pattern designer released a variation this year called the TGV Smooth Ride, with stockinette (stocking stitch, for you Europeans) in place of the garter stitch. I had some copper yarn left over from the Level shawl that went fabulously with a variegated skein (a blend of wool, yak, and I forget what else). The point was to use up the yarn, so the shawl is bigger than the pattern called for. but I think it turned out really well.

All knitting photos copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

In other crafty pursuits, I took a Zoom class yesterday on spinning and tapestry weaving. I learned a couple of tips on Navajo-style weaving and I reacquainted myself with how to use a drop spindle. Here's hoping I won't lose this newfound knowledge before I get around to picking up a drop spindle again, because I have a NaNo novel to finish. In all the times I have signed up for NaNo, I have never not won, and I don't intend to lose this year, either.


These moments of stress-relieving blogginess (and boy, do I need it!) have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, wash your hands, and save the big holiday celebrations for next year, mmkay?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Knitting in color.

How about a knitting post?

It looks like I haven't done one since April. On my personal timeline, that would have been early sabbatical,  pre-retirement, pre-relocation, and definitely post-virus shutdown. (That is, post-virus shutdown #1. Here in New Mexico, shutdown #2 starts tomorrow. But only for two weeks, hopefully. We'll see how the infection numbers play out.) I did finish several projects over the past several months, but I think I'll write about those next week. (Two knitting posts in a row! The world is going mad...)

This week, I'd like to talk about my work in progress, which is a pullover sweater called the Community Tunic by Joji Locatelli. (That link will take you to a yarn manufacturer's page where you could buy a kit to make your own version if they weren't sold out. Here's a link to the sweater on Ravelry -- I'm including both because non-Rav folks have had trouble getting to Rav from my posts in the past.) This sweater features a Fair Isle or stranded colorwork yoke, which means in that section, you're knitting with two colors at once. 

Alert hearth/myth readers may recall the post I did on my last stranded knitting project -- the Endless Colorwork Shawl of WTF Was I Thinking -- in which I said I'd never do anything like that again. (Apparently "never" is about three-and-a-half years long.) The reason I said that was because I always have trouble with tension in stranded knitting. Usually I knit Continental style, with the working yarn in my left hand; in English style, you hold the yarn in your right hand. Here is a video that explains the difference. (Apologies -- the video is by Red Heart.) The way I learned stranded knitting is to knit Continental style with one color and English style with the other. But the tension on my English style stitches is always lousy. 

Then I ran across a gizmo called a Norwegian knitting thimble. It allows you to hold both yarns in the left hand. Here's what it looks like in action:

It definitely solved the tension issue, so yay! But it was a little fiddly to get it going, particularly when it comes to catching floats. 

What is a float, you ask? In stranded knitting, you carry the yarn you're not knitting with on the back side of the work. That's fine if you're switching colors every two or three stitches. But as I got closer to  the diamonds, I realized I'd be carrying the purple for, oh, 17 stitches. Not only can such long floats cause your work to pucker, but barrettes and jewelry can get caught on them when you're taking the sweater on and off. So I had to figure out how to catch the floats while holding both yarns in the same hand. That took some trial and error. 

Here's the back side of my sweater. You can see here the difference between doing floats (toward the top) and catching them (at the bottom):

Oh - you want to see what the front side looks like? Sure! 
All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020
That yellow-green, frankly, is a problem. You can see how it blends in with the gray, and trust me, it's even worse in person. I am probably going to go over it with a darker green. I am definitely not ripping it out.

Anyway, the Norwegian knitting thimble gets a thumbs-up from me. Someday I may even do my own YouTube video for how to use it. The ones I found all seemed to be 30 minutes long because they included instructions on how to knit Fair Isle. Yo, I already know how to do that -- I just want to see the gizmo in action! 

I'm now past the yoke and need to knit the rest of the sweater. I'll post a photo or two when it's done.

NaNo update: We are at the halfway point today. Once I publish this blog post, I'll dive in and write my word count today for today; that will bring me to 25,000 words. I'd be done with today's words already, but I spent the entire freaking afternoon sleying the reed on the ginormous loom. At least that's done now and I can start the actual weaving, which should take nowhere near as long as warping the loom has...

These moments of knitting blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay home and stay safe!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

How not to heal a wounded America.

(Stolen from a Facebook post. Happy to credit the artist 
if someone can tell me who it is.)

Our longest Tuesday ever finally ended yesterday, when major news organizations called the 2020 Presidential election for Joe Biden. We here at hearth/myth are pleased with the outcome. We're super grateful that millions more Americans voted for Biden than for President Trump, and that Biden's Electoral College lead looks solid. And to be honest, we'd be okay if President Trump spent the rest of his term rage-tweeting and golfing, as both activities can be easily ignored.

As the election is over, I plan to go back to vagueposting about politics -- starting right now.

This post-election world is very new for all of us, and now that the euphoria has worn off, a lot of folks are sort of feeling around the edges about how to proceed. This past four years has been an eye-opener for many of us, particularly when it comes to how far down the rabbit hole our conservative-media-obsessed friends and family have gone. It's not so bad when senile Uncle Ern goes off on a Breitbart-fueled rant at Thanksgiving dinner -- you only see the old codger once a year, after all. It's much harder to ignore when Uncle Ern friends you on Facebook and then starts shitposting false conspiracy memes on his own timeline and insulting your friends on yours. 

But he's still your Uncle Ern. So maybe you should forgive him his belief that Pizzagate was a real thing and gays shouldn't be allowed to get married and the virus is a Democrat hoax and All Lives Matter. In fact, you'll probably run into folks who will tell you that you'll be sorry if you don't forgive him. 

If you're looking for permission to tell those well-meaning folks to take a hike, here you go: Tell 'em to take a hike.

We've already been over my views on forgiveness. To recap: As a Pagan, I see no moral value in forgiving someone who has neither asked for it nor atoned for the hurt they caused. Anger is a legitimate emotion. It's okay to be mad at someone. In fact, you can continue to be mad at them for as long as you need to be. You don't have to forgive anyone who doesn't deserve it.

Moreover, if Uncle Ern rants about All Lives Matter in front of your biracial children, or if he spouts off on gays when he knows (or should know) that you're gay, or if gives you a hard time for wearing a mask, do not shrug it off. That's verbal abuse. He's hurting you with his words.

We have all spent the past four years being gaslit by the President. He has told us lie after lie after lie -- more than 20,000 lies by mid-July, and tons more since. Hello, that's abusive behavior! It has taken a toll on every last American -- even those of us who haven't yet figured out they've been abused. 

Yes, America is horribly divided. Yes, our country needs to heal. But healing doesn't equate to sweeping bad behavior under the rug. Don't do it. Don't let people who behave badly get away with it in the name of forgiveness. And for the love of the gods, don't listen to anyone who tells you our best path forward is to turn the other cheek.

NaNo and stuff: As of last night, I was right where I need to be on the new book -- which is kind of a miracle, considering I spent all day yesterday on social media. I haven't written anything yet today because I spent more than four hours this afternoon warping the ginormous loom, and it's not done yet. This project is going to be nearly the whole width of the loom -- 360 thread ends, in case you know anything about weaving -- and each end has to be threaded through two parts of the loom: once through a heddle and once through the reed. (On a rigid heddle loom, the heddle and reed are one thing.) I finished threading the heddles this afternoon. Because I'm doing NaNo, sleying the reed (that's what it's called -- don't ask me why) will have to wait for another day.

These moments of advisory bloginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Social distance! Wear a mask and do it right! And thanks for voting!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A hodgepodge for our scattered times.

It feels early to me. Does it feel early to you? (For those across the pond, Daylight Time ended for North America last night. Nearly all of us set our clocks back an hour -- as if any of us need another hour of 2020.)

There's a lot going on this week at La Casa Cantwell: 

For starters, NaNoWriMo began today. I kicked off the month with about 2,400 brand-new words in a brand-new book that's tentatively titled Janis after one of the two protagonists. It's definitely going to be a fantasy and maybe a paranormal thriller, depending on how things shake out. For sure, I'll be aiming for readers who say they like reading Young Adult books but would love to read a fantasy with a kickass old woman as the main character. 

In the part I wrote today, Janis is joined by a man from her past. Each of them has a paranormal ability that complements the other -- she can view past events and see why people behave the way they do, and he can see the future in all its complex and probabilistic glory. They'll be teaming up against a shadowy organization they were once a part of. And the future of the world is at stake, of course, because that's how I always roll.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I've always won NaNo and I expect to win again this year, although for the first time I'll be writing while starting a new job. Yes, I know, I just retired. But I've picked up a temp job as a proofreader for the New Mexico state legislature, and training starts tomorrow. I expect 7:00 am will come awfully early tomorrow morning -- but at least I gained an hour last night, right?

The other big thing happening this week -- you might call it the elephant and donkey in the room -- is, of course, the US presidential election. I cast my ballot a couple of weeks ago and you already know who I've voted for (Joe Biden, for those just joining us), so now I'm at the nail-biting stage. Like a lot of Americans, I'm hoping for a big, blue blowout on Tuesday night, but expecting that the final results will take much longer. 

Assuming Biden wins, he's going to have a big job ahead of him. Regardless of how often he says he'll be president for all Americans, the fact is that our country is as divided as it's ever been. I'm left wondering how successful he'll be in bringing us together -- or even where to start. 

timbrk |

A couple of Louisiana State University researchers have been surveying Americans over the past four years. Mason and Nathan Kalmoe say we're in the throes of what they call "lethal partisanship." Forty percent of study participants see the other side as "truly evil," and a scary number on both sides think the country would be better off if a lot of folks on the other side of the political divide just up and died. However, the study also found that when participants heard a pacifying message from their presidential candidate of choice, their attitudes became less violent.

Which brings me to this week's episode of Star Trek: Discovery. If you haven't seen the episode, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. In this latest episode, Discovery returns to Earth and finds a lot of things have changed -- among them, Earth has dropped out of the United Federation of Planets and is now under attack by marauders. The two sides are at loggerheads. There has been no attempt at peace talks or any sort of truce. So Burnham and Saru force the leaders of the two factions to meet -- and lo and behold, once the two sides set aside their hatred for one another, they come to an agreement.

This is kind of a staple plot line for Star Trek: the Federation acting as peace broker between warring factions. And of course it's a lot easier to get people on either side of a dispute to meet when you can beam them in by main force. But still -- the key is getting people to stop talking past one another. I don't know if that's possible in today's America, but I hope we can get there soon.


I nearly forgot! We did get snow here in Santa Fe this week. It's all gone now, but it was pretty while it lasted. I promised photos. Here you go.

Snow on chile ristras at the Historic Plaza.
Emergence - Michael Naranjo
State Capitol, Santa Fe


These moments of scattered blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. We're all virus-weary, but keep wearing a mask and washing your hands anyway.

Sunday, October 25, 2020


Looks like I'm about to get a taste of how my new hometown copes with winter weather. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Santa Fe. We're forecast to get between 10 and 15 inches of snow between tonight and Wednesday morning. If that forecast is right, we'll get about half of our average annual snowfall in this storm alone.

This guy lives in Iceland. I bet he's never had a snow day. 
David Mark | Pixabay
I'm of two minds about this. Alert hearth/myth readers know I grew up in northwestern Indiana, where it was routine to get half a foot of lake-effect snow in a single storm. Life rarely came to a stop. Snowplows would make pass after pass throughout the storm, and if you were smart, you shoveled your sidewalk just about as often. Why, I remember standing on the street corner in a dress, with drifts all around me and snow still falling, waiting for the school bus. No snow days for us, no sir!

Then I moved Huntington, WV, and then to Norfolk, VA, and from there to the DC area -- and in all those places, I learned about the concept of "solar snow removal": everything grinds to a halt until the sun has melted the offending white stuff. DC adds an extra element of fun; as soon as snow is even mentioned in the forecast, everybody rushes to the grocery store for bread, milk, and toilet paper. No one knows why. Someone once suggested the bread and milk are for making snow-day French toast, but then why isn't there also a run on eggs? And cinnamon? And how does toilet paper figure into the menu? 

To make it even more frustrating, DC appears to sit in a "snow hole." In winter forecast after winter forecast, the weather guys would say we were going to get socked with multiple inches of snow -- and then? Nothing. Maybe a coating, but usually blades of grass would still be visible. Again and again, we'd go through all that angst for no reason at all.

In short, when it comes to human coping mechanisms for snow, I've experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. With the ugly still fresh in my mind, I have some trepidation about this forecast.

On the other hand, I'm retired. I have a package to pick up at the post office, but that will keep for a few days. It's semi-arid here, so the snow should melt pretty fast once daytime temperatures get above freezing on Wednesday or Thursday. And gods know we could use the moisture.

Anyway, I'll report back next week. Probably with pictures.


Between now and then is Halloween, a.k.a. Samhain, the day many Pagans celebrate as our New Year's Eve. Apparently I've never done a whole post devoted to the holiday in all the years I've been keeping this blog. I should rectify that. In fact, I believe I will, next week.


And once we get past Samhain and Día de los Muertos, it'll be Election Day in the United States. Millions of us have already voted, but if you haven't yet and you want to vote early, time's a-wastin'. Go to to find out the process in your state. Then make your plan and get it done.


Oh, right -- NaNoWriMo starts next Sunday, too. I'll be starting work on a new series this time. Stay tuned!


These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and VOTE!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Whither the Hispanic vote?

I love political posts, don't you?

The good news, for those who answered "NO!", is that I won't have a pressing excuse to do them much longer, as the US presidential election is just a titch over two weeks away. Plus I've already voted -- I put my completed ballot in the dropbox at the county clerk's office the same day I got it in the mail -- and as I mentioned last week, there aren't a whole lot of voters who are still undecided. So I'm becoming less interested in the horse-race aspects of this election and more interested in making sure everybody votes, and that everybody's vote counts.

Which leaves me a little room to think about what future elections in this country will look like.

tdoes1 | Deposit Photos

One of the things driving Republican voters, if the pundits can be believed, is a fear among rural whites that minorities will take over America. It's common knowledge that the minority population in this country is increasing while the white population is decreasing. Right now, the American population is 59.7% white, but the percentage has been dropping since the 1950s and it's projected to keep dropping until, by 2045, the population of whites will drop below 50%. To be sure, whites will still be the biggest demographic bloc in the United States, but we won't be a majority-white country anymore. (By the way, all the numbers I'm using are from the US Census Bureau.)

So who will be number two? With all the news coverage of Black Lives Matter this year, and depending on where you live, you could be forgiven for thinking Blacks will be the next largest demographic group. But you would be wrong. Hispanics* will be the second-biggest. In fact, they already are -- they make up 18.73% of the US population this year. In 2045, their percentage is projected to grow to 24.6%. That's right -- in 25 years, nearly a quarter of Americans are expected to be of Hispanic descent.

Blacks are and will continue to be the third largest group. And while their numbers will grow, their percentage of the population is projected to stay pretty stable -- 12.54% this year and 13.14% in 2045.

(What about Asians, you ask? I knew someone would. They're at 5.83% today and are projected to be at 7.85% in 2045. There's a nifty interactive chart here that projects population percentages for all these groups, and more, out to 2060.)

The thing that struck me about this is the emphasis placed by both of our political parties on the Black vote. If you've followed the "horse race" at all, you've seen the speculation from the punditry: Can Biden rely on the Black vote? Is Trump making inroads on the Black vote? 

Why all this emphasis on Black voters, when Hispanics are a larger percentage of the population? I kind of knew the answer, but an article I read in The Atlantic today underscored the particulars: Latinos don't all vote the same. Blacks, as a bloc, have voted reliably for Democrats for the past several decades. With Hispanics, though, it depends on where they're from. Cuban Americans in Florida have family members who fled Fidel Castro's regime; as a result, they have an antipathy toward anything that looks like socialism. They mostly vote Republican. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans who live in Florida tend to vote Democratic. And Mexican Americans, whose families settled in the Southwest (and elsewhere in the country), tend to vote Democratic -- which is one reason why states like Arizona and Texas are beginning to turn purple. But the author of the Atlantic article, Mike Madrid, says young Mexican American men without college educations appear to be emulating their white cohort by turning toward Trump. However, he says young Mexican American women appear to be supporting Biden.

Another interesting thing: Mexican Americans make up the majority of the Latino population in the US. But remember what I said last week, about how certain states -- like Florida -- are more important in presidential races because voters are split pretty evenly between the two parties. That gives Cuban Americans the biggest Latino influence on US presidential politics, even though Mexican Americans outnumber them. Politics is indeed a curious business.

As a recent transplant to the Southwest, I find myself invested in how it all plays out -- not just this year, but in political races to come. 


*I'm using the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in this post, although technically they are not. Hispanic refers to anyone of Spanish descent, including Spain and its former colonies; Latino covers those from Latin American countries, including in Central and South America and the Caribbean. And I decided against using the alleged generic term Latinx because a lot of Latinos don't like it. That's the hearth/myth style guide and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, if you ever have an hour or two to kill, looking up the nuances of the term Hispanic will lead you down quite the rabbit hole. (Are Filipinos Hispanic? Kind of! But also Asian and/or Pacific Islander...)


These moments of demographic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, social distance, and vote!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The time has come for majority Presidential rule.

Here I go, talking about politics again. Well, kind of. 

Every four years, Americans go to the polls to elect a new President of the United States (or re-elect the current one). At least that's what most people believe. But we don't, in fact, elect the President directly. Instead, we elect Electors, or people to represent us at the Electoral College -- a once-every-four-years group that gets together solely to vote on who will be the next President.

The number of Electors a state gets is equal to the number of its members of Congress. Every state has two US senators, and every state gets at least one member of the US House of Representatives. So each state has at least three Electors. States with big populations get a lot more. California, for example, has 55; Texas has 38. (Land area has nothing to do with the number of electors a state gets; Alaska is our biggest state by area, and it has only 3 Electors.)

It's not a terrific system (nor was it when it was first devised), but it would be sorta kinda fair if each state apportioned its Electors by its popular vote result. But that's not how it works. Nor has it worked that way since about 1832, by which time most states had gone to the winner-take-all system that persists today. In the meantime, our biggest cities have grown huge, outstripping anything the Founding Fathers could have envisioned in their wildest dreams. The result has been that states with the smallest populations have an outsized influence in the Electoral College. Here's an example: Wyoming has 3 electoral votes while California, as I mentioned above, has 55. Wyoming has something over 565,000 people total; California's population is 66 times that. Each of Wyoming's Electors represents 188,000 residents. But each of California's Electors represents about 677,000 residents. Wyoming's influence in the Electoral College is therefore much bigger than California's.

You might think that would give Wyoming a big influence on the actual Presidential election, but that's not how it works. Instead, because most states give all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, candidates concentrate their campaigning on only a handful of battleground states, where voters are closely divided and the race could go either way. This year, right now, all the hoopla is concentrated in a baker's dozen states


The numbers on the map represent major campaign events in each state since the end of the Republican National Convention in August. So if you live in California or Texas, or Wyoming -- or most of the rest of the country -- you're not seeing many ads for either Trump or Biden and you sure aren't seeing the candidates stopping by your hometown.

Because of this concentration on battleground states coupled with the outsized Electoral College influence of states with smaller populations, there have been five elections in our history in which the Electoral College has selected the candidate who didn't win the popular vote. It's happened twice in the past six elections -- in 2000 when George W. Bush won, and in 2016 when Donald Trump won.

The thing that annoys me most about this convoluted system is that for just about everything else, Americans are all about majority rule. It's a hallmark of our democracy, right? You bet it is -- but not for electing our President. We're told we need to protect small states' rights or the big states will run roughshod over them! But as we've seen, the current system protects rights of smaller states (if it actually does) by violating the rights of people who live in big cities, and who make up the majority of the population. How is that fair? Shouldn't the majority rule?

So how can we fix this goofy system? Getting rid of the Electoral College outright is a non-starter; it would require a constitutional amendment, and the political will just isn't there. But a bipartisan non-profit called the National Popular Vote has come up with a sort of end-run around it. It is collecting pledges from state legislatures to award their states' electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationally. 

Don't let anybody try to tell you it's illegal. The Constitution allows for states to apportion their electoral votes as they see fit.

The pledge will only kick in when states with a total of 270 electoral votes agree to participate. So far, 16 states and territories, with a total of 196 electoral votes, have signed on, so it won't be a factor during this year's election. But it's something to shoot for before the next presidential election in 2024.


These moments of fairly representational blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Have you made your plan to vote yet? 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

About time, warped.

Here's a weird thing I've discovered about being retired, now that I've been at it for a couple of months: A whole lot of my routines and habits were structured around my working life.

To be clear, I'm not talking about setting a morning alarm, commuting to and from work, and all that stuff. Those are the most obvious trappings of a working life and and we're all used to shedding them when we're on vacation. 

Well, assuming we actually go on vacation when we go on vacation, instead of simply scheduling fewer meetings and phone calls than we would during a regular workweek. You laugh, but I just got done working for twenty years for attorneys who would do just that. One guy always spends a week with his family every summer at a resort in the Adirondacks where there's no wi-fi, and no cellphone signal unless you get in a canoe and hike up to the other side of a mountain or something. A few years ago, I learned he's begun driving into the closest little town during this nominally unplugged week to get some work done. 

Come to think of it, that's about when I started keeping an eye on my work email when I would go on vacation.

Anyway, back to my original point: It's easy, and obvious, to turn off the alarm on the weekend. More insidious are the hidden compromises on your time. For instance, I got into the habit of doing laundry very late on Sunday nights. For several years I lived in an apartment building with shared laundry facilities; if I started my laundry late enough, I wouldn't have to wait for a dryer. I considered a 1:30am bedtime on Sunday nights a small price to pay for that luxury. Besides, I could sleep in on Saturday and Sunday in preparation (assuming the cats would let me).

Another example: My go-to time for grocery shopping gradually became 8:00pm on a Monday night. The produce section would be kind of picked over, but almost nobody was in the store then and the checkout lines were non-existent -- and shopping in an empty store became much more important once the virus hit and the mere thought of leaving the house could fill one with existential dread.

I don't need to make those compromises anymore. Moreover, if I don't get something done one day, it isn't a big deal if I let it slide to the next day. Or the day after that. Of course I have certain deadlines -- the rent is still due on the first of the month -- but it doesn't matter if I don't get up in time to go to the farmers' market. There's always next week.

Which is partly why it took me two months to figure out how to use my ginormous new loom. 

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that I took a two-day weaving workshop a couple of years ago. I had to buy a rigid-heddle loom for the class, and I've used that loom for a couple of projects since then. But the cloth my little loom turns out is only 15 inches wide, max. I figured out pretty fast that there were only so many 15-inch-wide projects I was going to be interested in making; if I wanted to weave something more practical, like cloth for a garment, I would need a wider loom.

So when my attorneys asked me what I would like for a retirement gift, I suggested they get me an 8-shaft table loom. After several rounds of negotiations, plus consultations with the retailer when it was clear I didn't know as much about table looms as I thought I did, we settled on the medium-sized loom. However, that one was on backorder; the largest-sized loom was not. And that's how I ended up with a ginormous loom.

There are a number of differences between a rigid heddle loom and a table loom, but one of the biggest is the way you warp it. This has nothing to do with Star Trek. If you look at a piece of woven fabric -- say, a dress shirt -- you can see the threads that make up the fabric go in two directions. Let's call them up-down and right-left. To make fabric, the up-down threads have to be tied onto the loom; the right-left threads are then woven through the up-down threads. The up-down threads are the warp and the right-left threads are the weft. Tying on the warp threads is called warping the loom

With me so far? Okay. There are a few methods for warping a loom, but they basically fall into two camps. One is the direct method, which is what I've always used to warp my rigid heddle loom. The other is the indirect method, which requires the use of a thingum called a warping board. I asked for a warping board along with the loom, and the guys bought it for me. 

The order came in several shipments, some from the retailer and several directly from the manufacturer in New Zealand. Once I got everything, I put it all together -- loom, stand, and warping board -- and there it all sat, silently rebuking me, for about a month and a half. I was intimidated by the thought of warping that ginormous loom. It was easy to put it off for another day, and another day, and...

Finally, a few weeks ago, I set myself a deadline: Either get the loom warped by the end of September or fold it up and admit you're never going to do it. So last week, I sucked it up. I dug out a pattern for a small project I'd made on the rigid heddle loom, spent a bunch of quality time with YouTube videos, and figured everything out. Of course I screwed up a couple of times, but I made it work. The loom was warped! 

And now that I've done it once, I feel confident I can weave a full-width project. Maybe I'll even try something more complex than a plain weave. I'll keep y'all posted.

Speaking of deadlines, the folks at NaNoWriMo have been sending me emails every few days, reminding me that I can announce my November project any time now. Yeah, thanks for nagging me, guys. 

Actually, I got an idea for the new novel today. I need to roll it around in my mind a little more, but I think it'll turn out to be a fun read -- and gods know we could all use a fun read right about now. Stay tuned...


These moments of bloggy warp and weft have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay vigilant -- the virus is still out there. Social distance and wear a mask!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

How Gene Roddenberry made me a progressive.

One of the things I've been doing since retiring is re-watching all the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I bought a boxed set of all seven seasons last winter and I'm now, finally, getting around to binge watching the shows. I haven't seen the early seasons in decades.

I consider ST:TNG "my" Star Trek. My father watched the original show, and I watched it with him (because in those days, kids, families had only one TV and you watched whatever Dad wanted to watch). But I was eight years old when the original series debuted in 1966. 

In fact, I just figured out that Star Trek debuted four days before The Monkees. Clearly I was at the developmental stage where long-haired singers made a bigger dent on my psyche.

Anyway, when ST:TNG began in 1987, I was at a much different stage of life: married with a six-month-old. My then-husband was a big sci-fi fan and many of our friends were into speculative fiction, too. And I was working in radio news, and beginning to meet people who had been dealt a lousy hand in life and who were never going to get long enough bootstraps to pull themselves out of their misery. 

The original series was kind of like a Western, with lots of action along a frontier and definite good guys/bad guys. ST:TNG had all that -- plus a society where money had become obsolete. The reason? Replicators.

Shisma | Wikimedia | CC3.0

Oh, there was a big explanation about how humanity had nearly snuffed itself in World War III and had evolved, as a result, into a caring and compassionate race. But come on -- if you can walk up to a machine on the wall and say, "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," and the machine fabricates it for you, you don't need to go out and buy cups or tea. Or clothing. Or anything else, really.

In "The Neutral Zone," the final episode of season one, Capt. Picard explains what that has meant to society. The episode opens with Lt. Worf and Cmdr. Data boarding a 21st-century ship that contained a number of human bodies that were cryogenically preserved at death, the idea being that they would be brought back to life once science developed cures for what killed them. Of course the cryogenics company had gone out of business and the ship had gone adrift. Most of the preservation units had failed over the intervening centuries, but three people were able to be saved: a middling popular country singer, a tycoon, and an average mom whose husband couldn't bear to lose her forever. The tycoon insists that Picard put him in contact with his bank or his lawyer or someone who can get him to his money. Picard tells him how pointless it would be: "People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated want, hunger, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy."

Because people lack for nothing in the 24th century, they don't have to work for a living -- and yet they do work. They still strive for excellence, but not for money; the striving is its own reward. Without the need to support themselves, they have the freedom to pursue whatever activity interests them: education for its own sake, the arts, or even traveling to the stars. 

That all sounded pretty good to me. It still does. Which I suppose is why the progressive proposal for single-payer healthcare caught my attention a few years ago. Why should we be tied to a job just to be able to afford healthcare? 

Today we're in the midst of a pandemic, and not only do we still not have single-payer healthcare, but our economy is being remade while we watch. The very landscape of our big cities is changing. As office workers do their jobs from home, their employers are wondering how much longer they can afford to pay rent on their pricey high-rises with ventilation systems that will have to be retrofitted to bring in more fresh air. Public transit is losing money, airlines are laying people off, hotels are closing, and restaurants that catered to both the lunch crowd and special events are locking their doors for good. Office workers may go back to the office eventually, but some of those jobs will probably cease to exist. And their neighborhood will never be the same.

Gene Roddenberry created the Star Trek franchise with the original series. ST:TNG was the last in the franchise that Roddenberry was directly involved with, and his optimistic vision of the future is largely gone from the later series. I guess that's understandable -- viewers today seem to want darker, grittier shows. 

But life itself is pretty grim these days. We could maybe use some hope. And here's the thing about watching ST:TNG right now: it's profoundly hopeful. The crew of Picard's Enterprise is smart, resourceful, and above all, upbeat. Humanity has survived its darkest hour and is better for it. But humans had to put aside hate, injustice, and the meaningless striving for things to get there.

Seems like a decent template for our own future.


These moments of hopeful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up and wash your hands! 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Moving into autumn, Ruth-less.

Yurumi |

In early August, not long after I arrived in New Mexico, I posted about all the things I planned to do this fall. I was going to design new covers for the Pipe Woman Chronicles omnibi and start working on audiobooks for all of my novels and I forget what else.

So here we are at Mabon -- the autumnal equinox -- and I've done none of those things.

I did start writing a new short story. It's about half done. Haven't finished it.

I could beat myself up over it, but what's the point? Guilt has never been one of my stronger motivators. I'm more interested in why it's happening (or more accurately, not happening). And I think it's because I'm just flat exhausted.

I've been working for 40 years -- first in broadcast journalism, then as a legal secretary. Sure, there have been times I wasn't showing up at a job every day, but during those breaks I was: on maternity leave, which is so not a vacation; or laid off and looking for a new job; or going back to school for my paralegal certificate. Even when I was on sabbatical from WilmerHale, work was still on my mind. On my first sabbatical, I got a call from work asking me to take on additional duties when I got back. On my second sabbatical this spring, I couldn't hand in my work laptop and phone because the office was closed due to the virus.

And then in July, when I was supposed to be done working, I got talked into staying on for another three weeks. By the time I mailed all the equipment back, I had just enough time to pack the car and hit the road for Santa Fe.

On top of that, for almost the past ten years, I've been writing and publishing three books a year. 

And on top of that is all the political upheaval of the past four years. 

Long-time hearth/myth readers will recall that back in 2016, right after the last presidential election, Amy and I created a dumpster fire ornament. We hung it on our Yule tree that year, never dreaming that things could get worse than 2016 had been. But then 2020 looked 2016 square in the eye and said, very clearly, "Hold my beer."

This past week, we surpassed 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19. We have a decently-performing stock market, but a limping economy in all other respects. We have a president who is apparently incapable of making any of this better. And now we've lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Court's stalwart liberals, and it looks like the Republicans in the Senate will gleefully break their own rule from 2016 and replace her ASAP -- regardless of the fact that we're only 43 days out from Election Day and early voting has already started. 

I'd make another dumpster fire ornament, but honestly, who wants a 2020 keepsake? 

For Pagans, the equinoxes are all about balance. Day and night are of equal length at this time of year, and that encourages us to find balance in our own lives. Now is the time to begin to take stock of our personal harvests and set aside what will sustain us through the winter.

So I'm taking stock. 

I think when I announced those goals in August -- Write ALL the things! Make ALL the book covers! Record ALL the books! -- I was still in go-go mode. I didn't realize how tired I was. Now, I'm beginning to. And to be honest, I'm relieved to be off the damned clock for once.

Eventually, the book covers will get made and the audiobooks will be recorded. Eventually, I'll finish that short story I started. 

And eventually, we'll have a vaccine for the virus.

What's most important to me now -- and especially so, since Justice Ginsburg's death -- is to see Joe Biden elected as our next president

And by the way, the Constitution doesn't specify the number of Supreme Court justices. We have had as few as six and as many as ten -- and there's no reason we couldn't have ten again. Or more, even. Merrick Garland could still get a seat on the Court. And additionally, I think Justice Barack Obama has a nice ring to it.

Blessed Mabon, you guys.


These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. For the love of all the gods, VOTE!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Will 9/11 ever be over?


Stolen from

Yesterday on Facebook, I mentioned that I was grateful all of the 9/11 stuff was over for the year, meaning the social media posts and news coverage of the memorial events. Someone took issue with my phrasing. "For some people, 9/11 will never be over, " she said.

You're telling me.

I guess I've never told my 9/11 story here on the blog. Maybe I should save it for the 20th anniversary next year. But I think I'll write it now and just re-run it next year.


When people talk about 9/11, they tend to focus on New York. That sort of makes sense -- the collapse of the Twin Towers was a dramatic and horrible tragedy. But two other planes went down that day. One of them slammed into the Pentagon. That's the one that affected me.

We lived in the West End of Alexandria, VA, in the rental townhouse where I later set the Land Sea Sky trilogy. That September morning, the weather was beautiful. The heat and humidity of the typical DC summer was over and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The girls and I went through our usual morning routines. They went off to school -- Kitty was in ninth grade at Minnie Howard School and Amy was in seventh grade at Hammond Middle School -- and I went off to my job. I caught my usual bus, which took me to the Pentagon where I changed from the bus to the subway, and went in to work. 

Our office was at 24th and M Streets Northwest in those days. I sat next to a secretary who worked for a partner with a corner office. He had a little TV in there and a great view of the skyline south of DC, and he was traveling on business that day. So when the first plane went into the World Trade Center, about an hour after I got to work, Debbie went into his office and turned on the TV. Her boss had a bunch of clients in the World Trade Center, and she was worried about them. Then the second plane hit and the towers collapsed. 

And then we heard about the plane at the Pentagon. 

That was pretty much it for work that day. I'd left the news business just two years before, so I had some inkling of what the reporters were going through. I spent the morning going back and forth between my desk, where I kept refreshing the news coverage online, and the partner's office, where we could now see smoke rising from the Pentagon crash site. 

Then we heard about the fourth plane -- including the speculation about the hijackers' planned destination: the U.S. Capitol, maybe, or the White House. Our office was just a few blocks from the White House. Now, everybody in DC is pretty much a fatalist; I've heard the route for the Capital Beltway was chosen because it marks the outer edge of direct damage from a nuclear bomb blast on the White House. If you live or work inside the Beltway, you figure you're not going to survive an attack. But still, this made that threat a little too real. 

Our office manager sent everybody home at lunchtime. This was before cell phones were ubiquitous and people were worried about their families. My usual bus was a commuter bus that only ran during morning and afternoon rush hour, but I knew that if I could get to a different station, farther down the Blue Line, I could catch a bus that ran all day. The question was whether the trains would be running to Pentagon Station or whether they'd be turned back. I got lucky; the wedge of the Pentagon where the plane went in was far enough away from the Metro station that it wasn't affected. The station, however, was closed. My train went through it without stopping. I caught my alternate bus and got home okay.

Not long after I got home, Kitty came in the front door and cried with relief when she saw me. The teachers at her school had told the kids about the attack. Of course, she knew my transit route and was worried I'd been at the Pentagon when the crash happened.

The teachers at Hammond didn't tell the kids anything, but the school is only five miles from the Pentagon and the kids felt it when the plane went in. There was a big construction project at the school and the kids wrote it off to that. It wasn't until later that they found out what had happened. 

Going back to work the next day was surreal. The Pentagon transit station was still closed, and would continue to be for the next three months. Buses that usually stopped at the Pentagon were rerouted to Pentagon City, just across Interstate 395. The new bus stops were makeshift affairs, and when we got off the bus we could smell the smoke from the smoldering fire. In addition, the platforms at Pentagon City are too narrow for the crush of commuters that typically got off at the Pentagon. The station managers were constantly yelling over the intercom, telling people to move down the platform instead of bunching up at the bottom of the escalator. I was sure that someday, somebody would get pushed off the platform by the crowds and into the path of an oncoming train.

Once on the train, it was more or less fine. But once we got to DC, things got surreal again. Armed troops in Humvees were stationed at major intersections. Walking past them to get to work was both reassuring and frightening.

The attacks changed a lot of things in DC. Of course, air traffic was halted right after the attacks. Living in an urban area, you get used to the noise from airplanes flying overhead -- but now all we heard were helicopters flying to and from the Pentagon. Other things changed, too. For example, we had to start carrying an ID card at work to get from one floor to another. Bag checks were instituted at public buildings, including museums. 

And of course, we all know how airport security was stepped up once air travel resumed. It was worse for DC residents -- initially there was a rule for all flights out of Reagan National Airport that nobody could leave their seat for the first 30 minutes of the flight.

Three months after the attacks, as I said, the Pentagon Transit Center reopened. It was due for a redesign anyway, but I believe the plans were modified after 9/11. It used to be that you could get off the train at Pentagon Metro, cross the lobby, go through a set of glass doors, and take an escalator up to the Pentagon itself. I'd done that a few times to buy a bus pass. But when the station reopened, that entrance was sealed off. Now nobody can get into the Pentagon without an ID or an official tour ticket. 

Also as part of the redesign, the bus bays were moved farther away from the building, and the transit center entrance facing the bus bays was redesigned. It's shown in the photo above. The line below Pentagon Transit Center might be hard to read in this photo. Here's what it says: 

In Memory of Those Whose Lives Were Forever Changed by the Events of September 11, 2001

I cried the first time I saw it. All of our lives had been changed by 9/11, in ways large and small.


Nearly 20 years on, it's easy to forget how much has changed. Americans came together right after the attacks, sure. But prejudice against Muslims ratcheted up, and it has never gone away. 

I know my own memories of the days right after 9/11 are no longer as sharp; until I looked up the dates tonight, I thought the temporary bus transfers to Pentagon City lasted a lot longer. And it's harder to remember how much easier life was before the attacks. I'm reconciled to the fact that we have to pay the government money now for the privilege of not having to undress and unpack to get on a plane. And I've gotten used to having my backpack searched when visiting a museum.

To me, the most worrisome change is that the Department of Homeland Security, cobbled together from several other federal agencies in the wake of 9/11, has become an easy tool for a president with fascist tendencies to exploit.

I think it's time for our nation to re-examine some of the post-9/11 changes that we've begun to normalize. I think it's time to look at whether, maybe, we went too far. That may be what it will take for us to be able to put the events of 9/11 behind us at last.


These moments of bloggy remembrance have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. You know the drill - wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask, and make sure you're registered to vote.