Monday, July 23, 2007

Farewell, Harry Potter

My husband and I attended the last Harry Potter book unveiling last Friday night. We purchased a book and an audio CD. We opened the CD as soon as we got back into our car and listened all the way home (over an hour). We then stayed up until 4:00 in the morning, got up late the next day, resumed listening, pausing only for meals and other necessary breaks. We continued this on Sunday until around 9:30 pm when the last disc played out. Phone calls were screened and no television was turned on to keep from hearing spoilers.

J.K. Rowling has outdone herself again. By far, this is the best book in the series. It starts out with a bang, no quiet lead-in. It's not for small children, so parents, please read this yourself before buying for your seven- or eight-year-old. But then, you as responsible parents always read books before your kids do, right? And if you haven't read any of these books and your kids have, shame on you for missing out on hours of fun reading. Although the movies are fantastic, you miss so much detail by not reading the books beforehand.

I know I'll go back and read the last book later. Right now, I'm feeling sad to say goodbye to a set of characters who have brought me so many hours of pleasure, and drained after the listening marathon. I feel like I've been through the wizarding war myself. I'm not giving out any spoilers, so you'll just have to read it yourself or go online to follow one of the jerks who is. They deserve to have bat bogeys plastered all over their faces.

Those of us who have watched Harry grow from an innocent child to a teenage wizard now of age can say we are proud of the way he has turned out. All of the characters in Rowling's world are flawed in some respect, just like real people. We all have our shining moments and those we'd like to forget. This is what makes her characters so realistic. They are allowed to be spiteful, jealous and insecure at times. But, it is the ability of the students in these books to rise above these feelings when it matters to come to the aid of their school and their friends which makes them heroes and which also keeps us returning for more. It is also the details of the characters and settings which bring her books to life and make us feel like we are there at Hogwarts or on Privett drive under the staircase staring up at the spiders. Who can forget the first time reading about the brick wall on Diagon Alley pulling back to reveal the wizarding section of London? Rowling is truly an inspiration for children's writers everywhere.

I heard a rumor that J.K. Rowling is now saying we may not have heard the last of her magical world, although it will not contain Harry. That is encouraging and gives us Muggles something to look forward to. So, as they say, Thanks for the Memories. I look forward to your next book.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why Knitting?

Knitting has taken the craft world by storm, and hurricane, and tsunami. I, myself, have become totally obsessed with learning this craft and inventing small blocks (or even better, large blocks of time) in my daily life to knit. I was asked to demo a Knifty Knitter at Michael's last year when I was teaching One Stroke Painting here in Goldsboro, NC. I fell in love with the looms and have been using them ever since. I've only recently become aware of the world of knitting yarns and am finding more and more knitting shops in this area and other states where I've visited. And, I am finally learning to knit with needles!
I've been a crafter since I could pick up a pair of scissors or glue. My mother is a crafter with wonderful patience and has always loved sharing her skills with my sister and me. We've been basket makers for decades now, but that craft is now being left behind for softer arts. My sister crochets beautifully, and my mother not only knits, but makes lovely quilts and machine embroiders. Although I still love to paint and will always be obsessed with gourd craft, I find more of my time inside being spent with knitting.
Why the knitting craze? Why is it so popular today? As usual, this morning, my littlest feline deems it necessary to wake me up before it is humanly or felinely decent to be awake in the world to trudge downstairs to feed her. Not that she may actually eat anything at this point. But, I go, obligingly, and manage to place food and water into clean bowls and plates. I stand in my kitchen debating on diving back into the bed or going outside to garden. I don't feel up to gardening and my eyes wander around the room, stopping to rest on a bag of knitting. Less than a minute later I'm sitting at the kitchen table 'just to do a couple of rows.'
My mind starts to wander about my latest obsession. The first answer to the previous questions sits before me in my hands. Knitting is tactile. We can touch it. We can caress it. We can place it against our faces and drink in the roughness or softness that is fiber. How many knitters can honestly say they can go into a knitting shop, especially those with open baskets of roving like Clara's Yarn Shop in Winterville, and not plunge their hands into the wonderful fibers? Try doing that with paint.
Knitted objects don't just sit on a shelf. They're made to be worn, carried around, used. Okay, other craft items are made to be used as well and polymer clay is tactile as well, but can you wear it as more than a broach or necklace? Can you continue to feel it against your skin when it's made? Knitted items beg to be touched.
Yarns are a buffet of colors and textures today. Not to be outdone by the skin, the eyes also have their palates satisfied. Yarn is beautiful just sitting on the shelves in the stores, or better yet, beautifying your work space at home until you get around to it. Slabs of clay or bottles of paint, not so much.
Lastly, I think one reason knitting is satisfying is in its ability to connect us with other people. I've noticed a large number of charities popping up everywhere which call for knitted items to be donated to the less fortunate. I even bought a book recently, called Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen. It lists various charities and gives patterns to use for knitting. I find this immensely comforting. In a world which seems so out of control these days, this is something that we can learn to not only control, but use to create something beautiful to leave for someone else. We can make a little part of the world better in a small, but significant way. We can't rebuild houses in Africa or plant crops side by side with farmers in Europe. (Yes, I know some of you can and have). But we can make a blanket or wool cap to keep a little one warm at night a thousand miles away.

Wars are won by armies, but peace and trust can only be won through personal contact and small acts of kindness.