Friday, August 5, 2005

When Worlds Collide

I've been wondering if this weekend will be more like SP5 or more like When Worlds Collide.

More wonderful goodies have arrived from my Secret Pal in France and with them, a wonderful new-to-me word. Thank you, Secret Pal, for this especially meaningful package!

Photo of SP5 goodies

The new word is chiné, which my mini Larousse defines as mottled, flecked, or clouded. La pal secrète uses it to describe the fabric created by well-behaved variegated yarn. English-speaking knitters have lots of terms for the bad variegated yarn behavior (striping, pooling, spotting, shazaaming or shazaming, flashing, swirly pooling, puddling, argyling) and some have even convinced themselves it can be a desirable design element in a scarf (eyeroll), but we seem to lack a word for the good. Strange.

There's much of regional and personal interest in this SP5 package, which makes it extra-special. My pal visited her parents in the scenic Gorges du Verdon – in the photo that's a bundle of lavender flowers from their garden next to a plump lavender sachet, a map of Verdon Regional Nature Park, postcards, a pack of souvenir playing cards with photos of the steep gorges and rapids of the Verdon River (it's a French deck of cards, so the face cards do not say K, Q, J for king, queen, jack, but R, D, V for roi, dame, valet). Happily, the lavender flowers arrived intact, nicely cushioned by a handkerchief that's a memento from a cousin's wedding a year ago, carefully tied with bright red string (which I untied - I hope that's OK). Happy First Anniversary, Aïda and Mathieu!

In all the pix and the postcards, I'm amazed by how pale and yellow the soil is. I don't think I've ever seen soil quite like that in the U.S. (not that I've been everywhere in the country). Roundabout Exit 151, the soil is mostly "Jersey clay," which is dark red, rich in iron, acid, heavy, and poor-draining. That's very good for plants that like moist bog conditions, such as the State Fruit, blueberry, but it's no wonder lavender plants sulk around here!

The only gorge near Exit 151 is on the Passaic River in Paterson. For most of its length the Passaic River Photo of Great Fallsis either swampy or marshy, but in "Silk City" it has dangerous rapids (which once powered the silk mills), then makes a sharp Z-bend and plunges through a narrow chasm of dark rock over the Great Falls of the Passaic. In the Eastern U.S., these 80-foot (24 m) waterfalls are second (albeit a distant second) only to mighty Niagara Falls. It's impressive to us, but tiny compared with the 2,300-foot (700 m) deep Grand Canyon of the Verdon. The Great Falls look their best in this photo by Andy Szymczak; in times of drought, the falls are reduced to a mere dribble.

Back to indoor scenery! The beauteous Anny Blatt Rustique in the SP5 package is 100% wool roving, very soft. I'll have to hide it from the local felting goddess, who always wants to felt things (a mania I don't share). This yarn is much too nice for such a terrible fate! Perhaps it wants to be Teva Durham's brilliant Braided Neckpiece in Loop-d-Loop. The pooling on the braided part of the neckpiece would be different than the pooling on the main part, which could be really interesting.

The last items in this incredible variety pack are lemon verbena soap (so good for refreshing tired summer skin), a clever boxwood jam spoon with a peg on the handle to keep it from falling into the jam, three packs of a jasmine-mint gum that tastes like an equal blend of mild mint (quite unlike overpowering Altoids) and flowers and says, "Relax" on the wrapper, and a tube of very tasty Crème de Marron or chestnut spread. This last is decorated with a smiling man made of chestnuts and, inspired by the postcard with a bicycle on it, I know exactly what to do with it.

Tomorrow is THE PRINCETON EVENT, an annual bicycle tour of the Princeton area. I'm riding with Tom Photo of Tom cyclingand some of his friends, who call themselves Team Spare Tyre. Many cyclists like to slurp energy gels as a snack during a tour, which is acceptable if that's all one has, the poor things. Thanks to la pal secrète I will carry something much nicer in my jersey pocket. In keeping with the Knitting Blogs tradition, I will also take my Sockapal-2-za sock (and digicam, of course). This intrusion of the knitting blogoverse into the bicycle world may take some explaining to the Spare Tyres. Well, if words fail, there's always the expedient of bribing mollifying them with Crème de Marron. No doubt that will be immediately comprehensible – after all, the chestnut man's head looks a little like a bicycle helmet. If that doesn't work, I'm moving to Planet Zyra.

Saturday also is the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; Tuesday of Nagasaki. So I'll carry a string of peace cranes and the hope and prayer for a future more like SP5 and less like When Worlds Collide.

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