Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Cleansing Breath for Mother Culture

A Cleansing Breath for Mother Culture

Those who have undergone physical therapy know that between exercises it is advisable to take a deep “cleansing breath.” Remembering to stop to take a cleansing breath among complex responsibilities is a principle I’ve carried over into Mother Culture - both literally and figuratively.

Several weeks ago our 1997 American-made car was equipped with a new transmission. “They don’t make cars like this anymore,” I was told. I believe it. I am a trusting wife - generally. Feeling something like what the owners of a new car must feel, Dean and I filled the trunk with provisions. It held a weighty ice chest of local produce, homemade raison cookies, farm eggs, the big camera, two suitcases of holiday clothes, suntan lotion, straw hats, sundry books and (I didn’t forget) yarn. With the packing complete we set off on a few days vacation on the Jersey shore. My parents live in a bungalow a block from the ocean.

Dean and I do not travel lightly. In the heat of the glaring sun we (Dean mostly) walked back and forth unpacking the trunk, armload after armload. Mom and Dad’s neat little bungalow was quickly transformed into a house of stuff. Normally, during our short visits I try to conceal our stuff in assorted baskets. Alas, it still looks out-of-place.

Glad to see us Mom and Dad graciously overlooked our clutter - as always. Then we settled down to a good long chat. A sea breeze drifted through the windows cooling our brows as we unraveled the details of our lives. We tossed in all the family news we could think of for good measure.

In the mornings I put on a vintage (sounds nicer than outdated) Laura Ashley dress for a quiet walk at low tide. Here I took a cleansing breath – a whole series of slow deep breaths this time  – of salty sea air. It was windy yet invigorating. 

A flowery dress at the seashore fulfills a romantic notion of mine. 

The yellow dress with the coral flowers and the shawl collar has a string of memories attached to it because it was purchased twenty years ago. A first violin recital, a home school graduation and a speaking engagement are a few memories that stand out. 

The mostly orange dress here and at the start of the post is one Dean bid for me on e-bay last year. The cost was quite reasonable. I’ve only started making memories in this one.

We walk up the beach in silence, but in harmony, as the sandpipers ahead of us move like a corps of ballet dancers keeping time to some interior rhythm inaudible to us. . . Emotions are carried out to sea. (From Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea chap. 6, page 101 in my grandmother’s copy handed down to me.) 

From my beach bag I placed a child’s cotton sweater at the edge of the dune grass. It’s a pleasure sharing my knitting with you. 

Dean, who uses his camera more intelligently than I, and wanted to protect the lens from windblown sand, took the photographs for me. It was nice to have his help - although I’ve learned to save knitting as a subject of conversation for those more readily inclined.

The variegated blues and wavy wool cables of this size-two cardigan make it at home at the seashore. I had fun knitting it from a pattern by Yankee Designs. Can you see the little wishbone cables one stitch in width? They remind me of horseshoe crabs in this setting. Seed stitch and blackberry stitch are placed between the fisherman ropes. 

While braver souls - at least half our age - were going in deeper, we faced the breaking surf our own way. We were jostled by the foamy undertow. How refreshing the water was – even if somewhat wearing. Returning to our umbrella the cameraman was smiling. He was satisfied that, yes, his wife now drenched in seawater, was indeed having a good time.

Next came the relaxing moment I had been anticipating. I took out of my beach bag the beginnings of another little sweater. Its stitches were cast on at home, a week prior with the hope of spending an hour of knitting bliss in the shade of a beach umbrella - the ocean before me. Involuntarily, I sighed after my second row. Then I remembered. I closed my eyes and took a slow cleansing breath. Gratitude inhabited the pause.

For body and soul, in your everyday, will you remember to literally take a cleansing breath now and again? Also for your Mother Culture I hope you will consider taking one figuratively - in whatever way you come up with. No doubt it is fast becoming a busy school year. 

Post Script

After a bath Baby is happy when wrapped in the green blanket Mommy knit for him. 

She only knits when expecting. That’s okay. Another knitter is keeping an eye on domestic supply-and-demand.

Blessings to you
Not for knitters only,

Karen Andreola


  1. What a handsome grandbaby. So so dear,he looks very content. Your pictures are beautiful, Dean does a great job.I love your dresses, the material is so festive.Thank you again for the reminder to take time for Mother Culture. My dear husband allowed me time this past weekend by whisking me away to a weekend in Vermont. Oh the joy, quiet walks with him,fabric shopping at The Norton House was special, I love fabric.A quiet fire-side dinner on my birthday Sat.Then a trip to west Brattleboro and such a find, The Tasha Tudor Museum. I had the opportunity to learn about spinning wool,weaving on Tasha Tudor's loom was introduced to me by a lovely Patty.My gift from hubby, a beautiful tin full of tea, 2 of Tasha's lovely prints and note-cards. It was a quiet but Mother Culture weekend for me.We departed early, the Innkeeper at the Nutmeg Inn was kind enough to say Irene was nearer than first believed. After arriving back in upstate NY Sunday eve and seeing the devastation that Wilmington received from Irene ,we were in shock. The fabric shop was up to the roof in water, the downtown streets we so enjoyed were completely ravished. So thankful to God for his protection over us,and in prayer for our dear friends in Vermont. Thank you karen for this lovely reminder to take time for ourselves.Dawn E. Brown Ps.........It is so funny that your dear daughter looks so much like my own.Her baby is a sweet bundle , looks very healthy from your picture.

  2. Karen,
    What a lovely post. Your knitting is beautiful and the colors are so perfect for the seaside shots. How I would love to take a deep breath of that warm salt air . . . I miss the beach, though I love our grand mountains! Both are blessings of beauty. Thank you for the Mother Culture advice. I'm going to take my cleansing breath of crisp mountain air and get started with our day!

  3. Your post brought, in a very good way, a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes~ it's like being on a mini-retreat! Seeing the beautiful pictures, I can almost smell the salty air, feel the warm sand, and hear the dancing waves. The cheerful feminine dresses call up a desire within to be more feminine in appearance and behavior. The beautiful, colorful and purposeful handiwork stir the creative juices. Baby's faces are precious and I love how content he looks bundled in his blanket made by Mommy. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and take a little vacation amidst our everyday surroundings where there is so much loveliness to see. Wishing you many moments of refreshment! ~Lynne

  4. Hi Karen!

    What a wonderful way to take cleansing breaths.

    A friend at church lent me Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book. Her thoughts are very beautiful.

    I'm knitting a deep-cranberry colored sweater for myself right now. It's supposed to be knitted on circular needles. I've tried and tried to learn to like them. I still don't. I've been choosing patterns for my husband, son, and father-in-law - thinking toward Christmas, maybe. I also found a Pi Shawl with sleeves that is just beautiful and speaks to the romantic in me. It must be knitted on circulars. I'm wondering if I'll want it badly enough to brave another foray into the frustrating (for me) world of circular needles.

    Thank you for the pictures of your grandson. He is growing! There is nothing like a little one fresh from the bath.

    I'm glad you had a refreshing holiday.


  5. Karen,
    I love this post!
    I am new to reading your blog and this post is exactly what I needed!
    Thank you so much for your tender words!
    Just finishing up on "Lessons at Blackberry Inn"....I have so enjoyed such a gentle and encouraging read.
    Looking forward ever so much to my time here!

  6. I am knitting and enjoying every moment of it!

    School is going well, we are enjoying it very much.

    I am loving your photos of your time at the shore...your Laura Ashley dresses are lovely and so are Dean's photos of your lovely knitting.

    Joseph looks so much like cute!


  7. Dear Karen,

    I love all of your posts--they are so encouraging and inspiring!

    I love your artistic and creative photos, and especially the photo of your daughter and her baby. What a precious baby!

    Your knitting projects are also inspiring to a beginning knitter. So far I've only finished a scarf (14 years ago!) and many dishcloths (recently). I'm hoping to very soon make a little earflap hat for my two-year-old little boy. I already purchased some beautiful blue (with hints of green) superwash wool to knit it with. I can't wait to get started on it.

    I hope your day is blessed,

  8. Karen, Please forgive me, I left out saying what a work of art your sweaters are.Thanks for sharing . Dawn E. Brown

  9. Hello Ladies,
    I'm feeling chatty this evening. I don't always - especially after a day of writing.
    I appreciate your comments. Please know that I do even when you do not see a reply.

    I like your phrase "whisking me away." It's a bit like being "swept off one's feet." What a special time with your husband. You visited charming places. So glad you weren't stranded somewhere by the hurricane. My parents were evacuated from their shore home. They came here. Although we lost electricity and heard the frightening wind roar in through the trees - the loudest at 3 am, nothing was damaged here or at their house. We are thankful.

    Crisp mountain air sounds lovely, too. I miss being only 30 minutes from the sea in Maine. But I like it here, too, very much.

    I had a lump in my throat when I landed on someone's post that depicted preparations for a tea party. The setting was the sunny hall of an old church, lots of tall windows, ladies standing leisurely together talking while the table was being set with sparkling glasses of fruit salad. I think I understand.
    You read between the lines sensitively. Taking a holiday amidst our surroundings is important whether it be a few minutes, a half an hour, or The Lord's Day.

    Sophia told me today on the telephone that 3 yr-old William said to her out-of-the-blue, "MiMi (that's me) wants to see Baby Joseph because he's fatter now." His was a good assertion. Here two week-ends ago and I doted upon both of them. It wore me out.

    Cranberry is a favorite color of mine in a woven wool tartan or a sweater. I wish this color was more popular. A sweater for myself (a first) is what I'd like to knit next. I'm trying to find a good yoke pattern. I should calculate my own, actually. It is my favorite style of cardigan.

    I know how circular needles can get twisted but straight needles weighted down with 150-200 stitches of wool can also be hard on the fingers, I find. Perhaps settling on a pattern that will take straight needles would be less cumbersome for you.

    Double pointed are what I prefer. The oldest painting of a knitter is Medieval according to a knitting magazine I read several years ago. It depicts a lady making a pullover with several long DP needles going round and round. With DP I go round for the sleeves to avoid a seam. But I do use "long" circular for the body of a sweater.

    Welcome. Nice to meet you.

    Joseph looks like Sophia's baby pictures.

    I've enjoyed our chat. Good Evening, Karen A.

  10. Beautiful scenery and sweater's! Thanks for the effect of the cleansing breath's I took while reading your post. Your grandbaby is precious!

  11. Love the line, "Gratitude inhabited the pause." Beautifully said, and so true. Thank you for the reminder and for sharing the peaceful photos. A vicarious mini-beach trip for your readers.

  12. A lovely post, and lovely knitting as well! Thank you for stopping by Love Living Simply and leaving your kind thoughts, you blessed my heart with your words.

    Gift from the Sea is on my yearly Summer Reading List ... as A Charlotte Mason Companion is always on my bedside chair this time of year. Your gracious encouragement there is like a breath of fresh air for this homeschool mother.


  13. Such a lovely post...

    Thanks for the window into your world,


  14. Your baby sweaters are so beautiful! I love knitting them. I used to knit one for each new baby at church, but with our own #4 on the way, I have other things to do. About your vintage dress--that's one thing about wearing classic clothes--one can keep wearing them for years. I think your dresses are beautiful. And you blog is a delight.

  15. Karen,

    What a lovely post! Your beach pictures are lovely! I really like your knitting. I wonder if I will ever get past the basics! ;o)

    What sweet grandson! How blessed you are!

    Your dresses are beautiful!

    Love, Heather

  16. Your knitting is just beautiful. I so enjoy your blog and your books.
    Warm wishes,

  17. Good afternoon, Karen,
    I sure enjoy reading your blog! The most recent post was one I completely understand. As a farmer/rancher's wife and also a homeschool mom, I completely understand a cleansing breath. This summer has been busy, with the drought and high temperatures we have had to water, water, haul water to pastures that have ponds that dried up due to drought and lack of moisture.
    I love seeing the little sweaters you have and are knitting. We have a new little granddaughter due to be born in the next couple weeks. I really like the green sweater pattern, the wrap sweater on your lap. I would really like to knit that one. Does it have a name so I can track down that pattern?
    Thank you for your time!
    Blessings from Kansas!

  18. Hi,
    Because you asked:
    The wrap sweater pattern comes from Lion Brand Yarn. The sprout green sweater on page 57 of "Love of Knitting" magazine - summer 2011, is titled "Timeless Classic Sweater," knit in a luscious cashmere.
    Skill level: Easy.
    I've finished my lavender one and am looking forward to sharing it with you.
    Karen A.

  19. Karen,
    As I read this I could feel the wind blowing strands of hair across my face. I could hear the roar of the pounding ocean tides. I could feel the sand between my toes and the yarn and needles in my hand gently creating the special rhythm of their own. And best of all I could breathe the peace and contentment in such a moment.
    A cleansing breath indeed!

  20. I hope you got to enjoy a little knitting on the beach this time, too.