In the High Peaks

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Murky Day Means Knitting to Audiobooks

Just a few sunny days this week and now we're back into The Murk, as I call it. It's plenty dark due to a dense cloud cover. Yes, I'm thankful  it wasn't hot and we were able to have the windows open all day, which has been a rarity this summer, due to the heat and humidity, even when there is Murk. It will be murky and a bit rainy until Wednesday. (I'm just hoping this means we will have a spectacular fall).

Indoor cleaning projects were not appealing today, so well before noon, I tossed off de-cluttering to launch a new knitting project. I'm excited about this one. Noro Kuryeon yarn, manufactured in Japan, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Every yarn in this line is wool, mixing many colors together to make multi-colored garments. I ordered the Noro Kuryeon wool for a scarf and draped hood combination that seems as though it will be very practical for an Adirondack winter.

It took quite a while to knit the gauge sample, because I had to do it in the pattern, which is not difficult per se, but is very complicated because it's a 12-row pattern and each row is different. It's just knit and purl, but you never know when you will purl or knit, row by row.

I was fine while I was finishing the last two hours of Barbara Ehrenreich's nonfiction book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and  Killing Ourselves to Live Longer.

I was drawn to this book based on Ehrenreich's tour de force bestseller Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America , in which the author went "undercover" as a waitress, hotel room cleaner, nursing home aide, Walmart clerk, and a cleaner of houses to show how difficult it is to survive as a poor woman in America. Things haven't changed at all since the book was first published in  2001. So if you haven't read it, and even if you know how hard it is, Nickle and Dimed is a classic. Ever tried to get food from a food pantry when it closes at 5 pm, the same time as you get off work, and other impossible Catch-22s.

In listening to Natural Causes, I was astounded to learn that Ehrenreich got her Ph.D. in molecular biology. Or was it cellular microbiology? In any case, Ehrenreich, who calls herself a "gym rat," (just because it makes her feel good, not to live longer), presses home the message that although we like to think that the diets we eat, the exercise we do, the herbs, the constant screenings for cancer, and everything else we do because we believe they will make us live longer, none of it has ever been proven to do just that. It is true that people of higher socio-economic levels live longer, and poor people have shortened lives.

She cites study after study, and gives copious explanations of cellular activities, which have all been updated. She interviewed countless researchers and studied a mind-boggling number of research studies.   I really like her message. It's provocative, as all her books are, which I like.  One of her messages I really, really liked: If one gets cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes, kidney failure--you don't deserve blame. It happens not because you didn't exercise enough, eat the "right" foods, on and on.  As she and her studies show, the human body, as it ages, is designed, whether genetically or due to environmental reasons,  to develop some of these problems. The idea that we can control what happens to our bodies is a very modern notion, and does not serve us, she argues.


  1. I love Noro Kuryeon wool although it has been eons since I have done anything with it. I should get back to some knitting (I only did it for a year or so) or crocheting... which I have been doing off and on for about 40 years. That scarf / hood combination sounds lovely.

    That book by Ehrenreich sounds very good, and I did like Nickeled and Dimed when I read it years ago.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      Thanks so much for showing me how Nickeled should be spelled. It didn't look right at all when I wrote it.
      You know, I am finding that the knitting puts me into a most enjoyable relaxed state of being. I like how I feel when knit. I've had some things going on that have given me considerable angst this summer, and when I knit, it all just recedes into the distance for a while. So you will probably be hearing more about me knitting.
      This is my first time with Noro Kureyon, and I love how it's a big surprise watching the colors "knit out."
      If you do decide to read the Ehrenreich, I'll just warn you that there are several chapters in which she discusses the history of human thinking and the history of the science about the body, the cell, etc. If I hadn't been listening to the audio, I probably would have skimmed those chapters. But really good chapters everywhere else.

    2. I did not notice how you spelled it, but I added an "ed" to make it "Nickeled" and that is not correct. Now I know. I can easily believe that knitting relaxes you. I never made it to the comfortable point where you can relax, although I love the look of a knitted product.

      Thanks for the warnings on the book.

  2. My daughter is a self-taught knitter, about 20 years now and, she has several published books and sells her patterns at knitting shoes and Revelry as well.

    I, on the other hand, can't knit for beans.

    1. I'm so interested to hear about your daughter. I've always thought that knitting pattern designers must have outstanding skills in mathematics and in spatial analysis, both of which I lack.
      If you're able and willing, I'd love to know the title of one of her books.

    2. Judith, she's always been artsy and creative but never excelled in math. here is a link to the three books -

    3. Diane,
      Thanks so much for sending the link!
      I appreciate it.

  3. My book club read Nickle and Dimed years ago and invited the head of a local assistance agency to the excellent discussion! I'm glad to hear Natural Causes gets a thumbs up from you as well. It's already on my list.

    I haven't done any knitting for the last 20 years, but would love to pick up my needles again. Think I probably need a quick refresher course ;-)

    1. Hi JoAnn,
      Gosh--I'm sorry it's now the 17th of August, and I haven't responded--.
      What a great idea for a book club meeting! I remember reading it with a Unitarian Universalist group here, back in 2006-2007. Every reader said that it was an intense and eye-opening experience, even though our progressive group knew plenty about how hard it is for people of low income to survive.
      As for picking up knitting again, I think that if you were a knitter in a past life it will come back to you fairly quickly. Really!
      JoAnn, I have found it to be so very relaxing while listening to an audiobook or podcast. But I do find that if I'm knitting a garment with a complex, challenging pattern, I need time alone with my needles until I catch on to the pattern.

  4. I'm actually knitting a teddy bear at the moment, not because I know of a child who needs one, but because I saw a sweet one in a craft shop priced at a shocking £55 and I thought - I could do that! I haven't even heard of that Japanese wool, it sounds lovely.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Ah, but you may *one day* know a child who will need one. Knitted teddy bears keep very well. I've seen loads of patterns for bears and other stuffed animals, but I think the skills required may be beyond me.
      The Noro Kureyon wool is beautiful and I believe it will be very warm. I must post a photo of how it knits out.

    2. Katrina!
      I can't believe it was three days before I wrote you a reply--sorry!

  5. Natural Causes sounds thought provoking. I sort of agree with the premise, but I also know that abusing your body leads to obesity, emphysema, and a host of other physical and mental conditions.

    1. Hi Jane,
      No, Barbara Ehrenreich does not promote self-abuse as the answer, I can assure you! Ehrenreich herself describes herself as a crazed gym rat and also a moderate eater and non-smoker. At the time of finishing the book, she was 76 years old.

  6. Glad to read about Barbara Ehrenreich's book. She did survive breast cancer and wrote a book that was very critical of the "cancer is a life lesson" attitude or the "pink revolution." She tells the truth about how hard it is.
    A relative who had the same disease agrees with her on all of this.
    I agree with her in general without having read this book. One can do everything and still get cancer. Know too many friends who have gotten a form of it and passed away or survived after an enormous battle.
    With some, health measures didn't prevent the disease from occurring.
    With heart disease, I think not smoking, eating healthy, exercising (to come degree) can help prevent it. Heart disease levels have decreased due to less smoking here.

    But as a writer in the Sunday Times said a few months ago, one can eat healthily, not smoke, exercise, but two environmental dangers still exist which have a serious impact on our health: airborne particulates, such a soot, which can cause heart disease and respiratory illnesses; and pesticides.
    She suggests people join organizations which campaign against both dangers to our health, and do something about it.

    I should read Nickel and Dimed as I agree with Ehrenreich on these issues. And more people now are working in the "gig" economy with no benefits and at great risk.

  7. As I woefully and, a bit angrily, stated in my mention of Nickel and Dimed, NOTHING has changed for poor women since the book was published in the early 1990s. That's almost 30 years--Crazy.