Summer Dreams on Winter Solstice

Dawn has yet to push the slightest blush of pink over the mountains to the east. I can’t quite see it, but I know one of my favorite days of the year is about to arrive. I’m writing this today in real time (more or less), as I eagerly await the dawn.

It’s barely 8:00 am, but coffee mug in hand, I have already begun my quiet, annual celebration. The thermometer proclaims a balmy 10F outside.

Today is WINTER SOLSTICE! ❄️

The snow stopped falling at some point during the night, giving way to stillness. I’m enjoying the pre-dawn vision of my little outdoor Christmas-decked bird-feeders in the total quiet of a landscape muffled by deep snow.

8:00 am, 12/21/2031

The chickadees and nuthatches won’t show up until dawn, where they’ll find a snowy welcome, but no worries. If you peer closely at what looks for all the world like a pair of little Alpine A-frame ski chalets, you’ll see the glow from my Christmas lights shining through small natural openings leading into each feeder. Plenty big enough for an intrepid nuthatch.

Once there’s enough light, it won’t take any time at all for my feathered bird-feeder denizens to have those tiny clearings carved out wing-span wide and will be busily helping themselves to their usual morning buffet.

Well, it seems Winter Solstice this year will not arrive with the anticipated pinks and pale yellows of a lovely winter sunrise to usher in this special day.

Instead, there has been a slow, steady lessening of darkness, with night fading away to give witness to a morning shrouded with fog – and still hovering at 10F.

The forecast is for partly sunny skies this afternoon, so maybe our meager five plus hours of daylight will brighten a bit more. Dawn officially occurred a few minutes ago at 10:17 am. Sunset will pull the curtain back down at 3:36 pm – the shortest day of the year – which doesn’t give me much time for partying!

Winter Solstice, for me, is all about countdowns. Until today, we have been slowly but steadily losing more minutes and seconds of daylight each day, with the sky getting darker earlier and earlier, and the nights correspondingly longer.

Today is the switchover! Beginning tomorrow, we begin the [still slow] process of gaining those seconds, moments and eventually hours of glorious daylight back again!

By Summer Solstice in June, my region of Alaska will be blessed with a full 22 hours of sunlight each day! Quite the dramatic difference!

So, what am I planning to do on this most auspicious day? Well, there’s not much time, so I have to keep it simple.

I plan to take my spinning wheel to our local “Fiber and Ice” yarn shop for their Tuesday afternoon spinning circle. What could be more joyful than surrounding myself (properly distanced, of course) with like-minded friends and colorful yarn?!

AND … I plan to show off the yarn I just finished spinning yesterday. Yes! I am celebrating Winter Solstice by finishing my “Summer Dreams” yarn!

I completed plying the last skein of yarn yesterday afternoon, gave all six skeins a good soak in hot water to set the twist, and laid it on my drying racks by the wood stove overnight to dry.

I couldn’t be happier to face Winter Solstice with bouncy skeins of bright sunshine, warm blue summer skies and grass I can almost feel under my feet!

I know my color wheel. My biggest surprise was that the overall yarn, a blend of yellow, two different blues and white, didn’t turn out looking completely green. 😂

As it is, it kind of depends on the lighting in the room and the section of yarn. I’m totally thrilled to have successfully blended, spun and created a rendition of the image in my head. “Summer Dreams”, in worsted-weight yarn.

Happy Winter Solstice! 💛💙💚💛

Physical Therapy Woes

In spite of the title, I want to start by saying I love my physical therapy team. I hate to think where I’d be without them.

My doctor first recommended PT two years ago to help build core muscle strength and improve my posture, hoping to alleviate what was becoming chronic, rather severe back pain without resorting to surgery.

Example of a strong “core”. Baxter can hold this position all day!

I won’t say my back is pain-free, or even as strong as Baxter’s, but 12 weeks of PT helped to the extent that back pain is not currently a regular issue, and judicious use of Icy-Hot patches when it does flare up have been sufficient. Fingers crossed.

Considering my level of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, it’s been important for me to continue with stretching exercises and walking to keep my back (and other parts) from once again becoming a debilitating issue. So far, so good, although my at-home exercise assistants are sort of hit or miss in their effectiveness.

Ronni, for example, is SUCH a big help with my floor stretches and simple “senior yoga” routines 😉. You can see how helpful she is, right?

The dachshunds work as a tag team when it comes to making sure I get sufficient exercise during the summer months – but I noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm on both ends of the leash once winter set in. In cold weather, we ALL prefer snuggling with a warm blanket. 😉

But we were talking about physical therapy …

My walking regimen became seriously derailed last spring when a combo of planter fasciitis in both feet and painful arthritis in my right knee flared up to near biblical proportions (well, maybe not that bad …).

This didn’t stop me from participating in my favorite dog sports, but I’ll admit, it took some of the fun out of them and certainly slowed my roll.

After a six month battle, including excruciating cortisone shots and yes, more physical therapy (this time to strengthen my foot and ankle muscles/tendons/ligaments and improve my balance), my feet are finally relatively pain free.

The knee, however, is another story. X-rays don’t lie. It isn’t going to respond to anything short of surgery. 😢

Which is why my physical therapy team recently added exercises to help me build more strength in the leg muscles that will be needed during my upcoming recovery from knee replacement surgery. My left leg is going to be working extra hard for a while – we need to do what we can to make sure it’s up for the task.

So every day I find myself doing such things as marching up and down my hallway, knees high (relatively speaking), pausing with each step to balance on one foot before proceeding.

When I get tired of that, I can walk the same path while attempting back-kicks (envision trying to kick yourself in the butt with each stride forward), or pretend I’m on a narrow balance-beam as I suck in my gut, throw back my shoulders and walk heel to toe, pausing each step to rise on tippy-toes and balancing there. 🧚🏻

Sometimes I stand, enjoying the view out my bedroom window while balancing up on the balls of my feet to a count of 15, then slowly lowering to flat feet before repeating – over and over. Actually, I’ve gotten pretty good at this exercise, since it’s one I can also practice while working at my drum carder.

Of course, these exercises seem much easier at home, where I can get away with occasionally cheating – and where I don’t have 2 lb. weights strapped around my ankles. Groan!

As my December and January calendars fill with a myriad of pre and post-surgery tests, scans and other assorted appointments, I find myself becoming more anxious and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Surgery is scheduled for January 17th. I’m counting on my trusted physical therapy team at Select PT in Wasilla to get me OUT of this mess in one fully functional piece – eventually. Hopefully in plenty of time for late spring nose work and barn hunt trials.

My spring and summer plans will hopefully keep me motivated to push through recovery and rehab. 🦮🚎🥏🧘🏼

In the meantime, I’m still trying to cultivate a calm and joyful Christmas spirit. Minimal decorations this year, but I set out our Christmas stockings, some shelf and window decor, my little blown-glass Christmas tree, and my old nativity scene.

Well, and the bird-feeder tree. It’s enough.

Thanksgiving “Fairy Dust”

Don’t you love it when you have a perfectly ordinary day planned and something catches your eye, sending you off in an entirely unexpected direction?

Yes, it’s fiber. A lovely bit of “fairy dust”; less than an ounce, although it looks like more, being so light and airy, but OH! So magical. I had to stop everything and spin it right up. 💗

This lovely mini-batt was created by blending 50% dyed angora bunny, silk, fine pygora and just enough super-fine merino to hold together for spinning.

It’s only lightly blended … probably only once through the drum-carder.

It clearly (to me, anyway) called out to be spun thick and thin, with some intentional slubs – lots of texture.

Wow, as soon as I started spinning, I realized I’d almost forgotten how to intentionally create a slubby, textured yarn, but this really needed to be just that.

I loved the way it turned out, but at barely half a bobbin full, I realized some creativity was called for if I was going to have enough yarn to be actually useful. My solution was to spin up a 2nd 1-ounce bobbin of pure white, lustrous yearling pygora. Yes, fiber from my sweet “Yarn”. Oh my, her first shearing was wonderful. I’m so glad I still had some set aside. 💗

“Y-Not Yarn“ & barn cat, “Snicker-Doodle”, circa 2009.

I plied the half-bobbin of think & thin lavender “fairy dust” with the half-bobbin of slightly finer, more consistently-spun white pygora. I was thrilled to see the finished yarn carried all the texture and softness of the angora blend, without losing the soft, magically colors.

The finished yarn is comprised of 60% Pygora, 30% Angora (bunny) and 10% silk and merino wool.

As I’d hoped it would, the yarn fulled out more and developed a pretty halo with a hot water soak to set the twist.

It spent last night on the drying rack by the wood stove. This morning, I was greeted with a lovely 1.5 oz skein of beautiful, soft and lofty “fairy dust”.

There’s not a whole lot of it – just about 100 yards of finished yarn, so I’m think it’ll be a fun touch of magic as cuffs on a pair of gloves, or an unexpected trim on a hat or scarf.

What a nice way to start out my Thanksgiving Day. Sending loving Thanksgiving wishes to each of you – I hope you have some unexpected joy in your day!

Slow Slide Into Evening

Exhausted after running errands today in single-digit temps, with a brisk November breeze dropping the wind-chill well below zero, I was more than ready to snuggle into my favorite chair with a soft quilt and a dachshund by 4:00 pm.

Ronni was ready to snuggle too, having accompanied me on my frigid outings. I don’t usually allow either of the dogs to come along on super cold days like today. But the number one reason for venturing out at all today had been to take Miss hot-to-trot, sassy-pants Rhonda on her weekly date with the RATS!

Her favorite Barn Hunt rat-wranglers, Laurie and Valerie, had hidden five live rats (safely ensconced in tubes) for Ronni to hunt for among the stacks of straw bales today. What a treat!

Ronni launched her sleek, naked self from the start box with a joyous yip, racing up, over, around and through the tunnels in search of her prey, finding and pouncing eagerly on each one in turn.

And she’s off!

Oh! A good time was had! I’m pretty sure she found and alerted on all five rats in about three minutes, but who’s counting? It’s all about the hunt, after all!

A short while later, bundled back up in her double-felted, polar-fleece coat and buried in a blankie on the heated passenger seat of the car, Ronni was more than happy to nap while Mom did such mundane tasks as picking up mail and shopping for kitty litter.

Finally home, I poured a mug of steaming hot Chai tea and settled myself, prepared to relax and enjoy a long, mellow Alaskan sunset.

This time of year, the sun is pretty much below the horizon by 4 pm, so any brilliant displays of neon orange and glowing purple have already faded away. What remains, and happily spends a leisurely time transitioning from sunset into twilight, are soft, bruised lavenders and pale pinks, glowing softly against shadowy white mountains in the distance.

There was just enough light yet for nuthatches and chickadees to be swooping in for a few late snack from the bird feeder before tucking themselves in for the night.

Because of the below zero temps this past week, I’ve kept the suet bars well stocked too, and my effort has been obviously appreciated.

I watched, enamored by the dusk antics of a trio of chickadees, until the last of my winged friends darted away for the night … and watched on as the sky slowly darkened and the twinkling lights on my little deck scenario began to glimmer. It’s 5:00 pm.

In another half an hour or so, the lights silhouetting my little trees will be all I can see in the otherwise dark Alaskan night. Time to turn some lights on indoors and maybe do some spinning. Nite nite. 🦉

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