About Sublets and Other Agreements

Morning!  So glad to be here with a few clearer thoughts on that book I mentioned last week.  My English class senior year in high school was taught by my neighbor, Myra Shapiro.  It was an honors class and she was a marvelous teacher, exacting, stimulating, making us dig into the literature and see beyond the obvious.  She refused to let us be stupid.  I loved it.  While we didn’t live in a neighborhood that got together for community activities, I did know her outside school, as I babysat her younger daughter. 

Several years after those high school days, while I was gone away to train in medicine, Ms. Shapiro began to take extended visits to New York City.  She was writing, nurturing her poetry.  Four Sublets, subtitled Becoming a Poet in New York, A Memoir, describes this time in her life.  (I obtained my copy from bn.com, the Barnes and Noble online site:  http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9781887344128&itm=1 )  The book was written recently and gives us the perspective of the author’s entire life, including the early influences of family, geography and religion.  We also know where she ends up and the contentment that her decisions brought her.  We benefit from the copious notes she took during the time of the sublets, as she is able to describe courses and people, daily activities, conversations and thoughts.  I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book, as I did the poetry that was included and her descriptions of how poems evolved.

My own difficulty with this report is that individual will and ability (which Ms. Shapiro clearly demonstrated) is given the back seat to time and place.  She prefaces the book with “I wrote this book in gratitude to the Women’s Movement” and speaks as if her poetry voice would not have emerged and thrived without the external influences of those ideas and her sojourns to New York City.  This is anathema to me.  I come from a people who say “Work hard and you can do whatever you put your mind to.”  They believe in making your own opportunities, using all of your personal resources (and these never extended to money for NYC sublets),  taking responsibility for your decisions and the way you live your life, and being optimistic. 

Ms. Shapiro was born in New York City of poor Jewish immigrant parents, and migrated to Dalton, Georgia as a child.  She speaks of being uncomfortable, having no community in this area, and feeling trapped here.  She touts the women’s movement as giving her freedom, but what she is talking about is the freedom to think and choose, something we already have.  She discusses her daughter’s life and wonders how she can have problems, since the women’s movement and the choices were available to her all of her life.  For some reason she fails to see that we are not different.  In my own generation, and in my daughter’s, restrictions and conflicts about the role of women still exist and are deeply ingrained.  A chemistry teacher in my high school, the same school where Myra Shapiro taught, told me that I’d never become a doctor because I would find a man and marry and have babies.  My daughter is ridiculed for being a reader and having a vast general knowledge about things other than Facebook and pop culture.  It is not easy for women in this world.

What Myra Shapiro’s book lacks is that thread that tells us we can do it-right here, right now, with the brains and hands that we were given.  She was not a special case, isolated and neglected by the barren south.  So many women went on to make incredible, spirited, innovative contributions right here, blooming where they grew, as it were.  The book doesn’t tell us that we can reach out and build the community that we desire and need, that we shouldn’t mangle ourselves into someone the masses of other little girls want to play with, but find the girl who thinks and feels like us-make community with the “different” ones. 

Enough.  The passions that fuel my discussion of this book run deep, and cannot consume my day.  My “other agreements” are promises I’ve made to you about knitting.  I have finished the second strip in my daughter’s blanket:

daynas-blanket2nd-strip.jpg The top strip with the two lilac blocks is the second strip.  It will be the middle strip in the afghan.  I’ve highlighted a couple of squares for comments.  The deep rose coloured block below has a very simple pattern.  All the way across, on the right side I made knit 7, purl 1.  On the wrong side it was purl 7, knit 1.  Whenever I got the whim, I made a knit row.  These stand out as garter ridge rows and help to keep the piece from rolling.  I didn’t worry about the edges rolling as it will be in the middle, and being sewn to the blocks on either side will keep it flat. 


The pale pink block, which I’ve turned upright so you can see it as it would appear while you are knitting it, was knit in squares. 


 The squares on the bottom are 4 stitches x 5 rows.  When I decided to switch to larger squares, 8 stitches x 10 rows, I just went directly into them instead of knitting a garter ridge in between.  I liked the look of the L-shapes where a small and a large square connected, and I liked bringing in that shape without having to plan another pattern.  As I did in the block with squares on the first strip, I made a 4 stitch garter border on each side.   I’ll save discussing the lilac block, which has a new and more complicated stitch, for tomorrow. 

I’m in the middle of the simple cashmere project that I promised.  I think you will like it.  Anyone who can make a knit stitch and a purl stitch can complete this one.  A reminder:  Essie is a LOOSE KNITTER.  This is not a moral judgment, it refers to the fact that my stitches sit loosely on the knitting needle and I usually have to go down a needle size to make gauge.  I have deliberately not included a gauge on the patterns I’ve described so far.  It is not important for the blanket, and for the hats you’ll be fine if tighter knitters go up a needle size.  Don’t obsess about it.

One event this week reminded me that Essie is a YARN SNOB.  I thought I would have to duplicate an old project, made last year in acrylic yarn and nylon eyelash.  I went through my stash, looking for any acrylic yarn that I had retained in my big stash clean-out last month.  After knitting a few rows in the acrylic I felt violated.  I do not like the feel of that unnatural stuff.  It doesn’t move right on my needles, and the stitches don’t cuddle up to each other the way naturals do.  As a concession to folk who want machine-washable garments, I’m beginning to stock washable wools.  That’s as far as I can go, people.  The voices in my head are saying “Please back away from the acrylics…”



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