Everything I Know About Tangents…

My fourth grade teacher taught me everything I know about tangents.  Ironically, the lesson was not part of a geometry instruction, and I’m not sure she knew how effectively she was teaching it.  Like many Army school teachers, my fourth grade teacher was married to a career soldier.  She had travelled the world with him, and had a wealth of knowledge to share with us – the places she’d been, people she met, customs and culture…Her way of sharing was to start on a curriculum topic, lecturing and writing on the blackboard (we still had chalk and blackboards, and the lovely honor of going outside to clean the erasers).  Suddenly she would hit on a topic that coincided with her personal experience, and off she would go, animated and voluble, giving me the same feeling as when I was immersed in a good read.  Eventually she would realize she was on a tangent, and say so, and make the leap back to the proscribed topic, leaving me a little sad that we couldn’t sail on and on, taking tangents from the tangent and navigating only by the desire of the moment. 

At the age of 8, starting fourth grade, I understood that tangents couldn’t exist on their own.  You had to have a starting place, a central core of agreed-upon topic, as your jumping off point.  And the jumping off didn’t involve a leap to another totally unrelated topic, but a sliding off the point onto something that arose naturally from the topic but moved out into another realm.  When I finally reached geometry (tenth grade?) I could picture that line with its single point in common with the circle, and remember our movement out of the circle, through that point, and down the line to parts unknown.  I would look at the tangent line and imagine how much of a leap it would take to get back to the original circle, sometimes impossibly long for a nonathletic child like me. 

All of this came to mind because I went off on a tangent yesterday.  I was thinking about hats while I knitted the projects that I’m working to complete, and suddenly I was putting down my needles and picking up a skein of tangerine Blue Sky Dyed Organic Cotton.  In my mind was a hat that wrapped, with some overlap leading to some kind of interesting adornment on the side.  I began to knit furiously, starting at the top, creating the spiraling increase in circumference and on to the stockingette body and big swirling medallion-like finish.  I went to bed satisfied that I had captured it, and woke this morning anxious to sew it together and see the completed project.  I even disturbed my daughter’s sleep so I could view it on a real head.  (I know, I am a ruthless mother when I am off on a tangent.) 

I must admit, this tangent went out a looooong ways.  After I did the finish work, I took the time to write the pattern.  I will publish it here as a free pattern tomorrow.  And I photographed the hat:


Including a top view:  DSC04237

It is time for me to get off the mother of all tangents and make that huge, light-years long leap back to the day’s tasks.  My garage is mid-cleanup.  I need groceries.  There are other projects still on the needles.  I have photographed baby hats and need to edit them and post them in the Turtletots store.  But wait, there’s more:  income tax prep, cactus planting, etc.  My tribute to Billy Mays. 

Oh heck, I can’t leave yet.  A few words about the Michael Jackson memorial tribute.  I have been a little tickled realizing how far some of the news announcers are from my world.  There’s been so much talk about his children attending (was it wise, will it scar them for life) and his daughter Paris making her own statement at the end.  The Black in my roots means memorials like this are the norm.  We take our children to funerals.  My daughter went to her grandparents for “day care” from 5 weeks of age until she began preschool.  She attended funerals with them regularly, knew that death came and was an expected part of life.  In my upbringing, it was common for children to be able to speak or sing or play a musical instrument at a family member’s funeral.  Their tributes were always welcome, and they were supported by family members in much the same way as the Jackson clan flocked around Michael’s children yesterday.  Thank God they have that sustaining family power. 



One Response

  1. hi,
    I really like your blog. your writing is so entertaining and often very poignant but in a gentle way.
    I’ve been struggling with flaring lupus lately and feeling a need to write…but not about the lupus exactly. I was looking around to see what kind of blogs there might be out there that have a casual, anecdotal kind of approach to discussing autoimmune conditions.
    I really like yours.
    take care,

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