Windburnt Memories

My cheeks are windburned. I’ve only had windburn once before, almost exactly 16 years ago when Christo and Jeanne-Claude unveiled The Gates in Central Park. (It’s worth it to click over to the Christo page and look at the concept drawings.) On that day — February 12, 2005 — I’d gotten up early and taken the F to the C and ridden the C from Brooklyn to 72nd Street in Manhattan, strolled into the park and set myself up near one set of gates. I was early because I wanted to be sure I’d be there when the first of the gates were unfurled.

When Christo and Jeanne-Claude began to walk through the park, there was some buzz running through the crowd that had gathered, the idea that people in the audience would be allowed to open gates, too. That made me even happier to have shown up early. My position in the front row of the crowd couldn’t guarantee that I’d get chosen, but it seemed that it must give me a better chance.

The first gate was opened to lots of cheers and applause and then — yes! — people from the crowd were getting to pull open gates. I staked out my claim on the gate nearest to me, trusted a stranger with my camera, and had the fun of being part of a Christo installation:

And right after I brought my gate down, it was determined that people shouldn’t be allowed to open the gates because someone could be hurt and then surely litigation would ensue, so all of the other people waiting their turns had their hopes dashed. (Also? This is a rare bit of photographic documentation of my beloved black velvet coat. I wore that thing into the ground! I think it’s time to start I acquired another …)

I’d never been a Christo fan. None of his installations had ever resonated with me. Something about The Gates, though, really struck me. Maybe it was the vibrant color set off against the winter greys and browns of the park, or the way the fabric flowed in the breeze, or the wave pattern of the gates as they moved through pathways of the park. I don’t know, but I loved it. I spent hours in the park, walking and smiling and just really being happy to be part of it. As I made my way out at 72nd Street, one of the installation staffers was near the entrance handing out pieces of the gate fabric:

The next day, my face was killing me. My skin felt as if it was on fire. The concept of windburn had never occurred to me before. I’m not even sure I’d ever even heard of it. I had my writers group that night, and mentioned how much pain I was having, and the woman whose house we were meeting in diagnosed my condition and gave me a tube of Weleda Skin Food. That stuff definitely saved me.

I wasn’t standing out in the park for hours this week. Or anywhere else, really. I was outside for maybe 25 minutes Thursday night. And it was cold and super windy. But am I so delicate that such brief exposure burns my face now? I mean, I guess so. The apples of my cheeks are stinging, and the skin feels rough and raw. Happily, I have my own tube of Skin Food. And a tube of Aquaphor. Between the two of them, baby-soft skin should be mine again in no time.


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Knit One, Purl Two

I am working on a series of knitted gifts. Working on these projects is the first knitting I’ve done during the pandemic. It feels good to be diving into some crafty business again.

(I have a ginormous yarn stash … but all of these projects are being knit from new yarn. I have been buying and buying and buying yarn the last few months. Yes, it will all eventually be turned into something — gifts for my beloveds or for myself — but all this shopping is getting out of hand.)

My mom taught me to knit when I was nine … and I promptly forgot. But then I taught myself when I was in my twenties, and I’ve been knitting ever since. I love knitting. I love learning new patterns and trying more and more complicated designs. I very particularly like knitting lace. I love seeing how simple stitches turn into graceful, delicate fabric. I am especially loving Estonian lace patterns. I have a few shawl patterns I have made several times (let’s hope all those friends don’t run into one another some day at a wear-your-knitted-gifts convention!).

The gifts I’m making now are sturdier, are meant for more rough and tumble wear and tear. They’re cute, but not lacy. I did, however, start a lace scarf for myself just for fun. My office day this coming week will include a trip to the post office to mail out a handful of gifts. I still have a few more to make. I feel super productive in the knitting department.

This is a pretty rambling post. I’m sleepy and content, which is a good combo for me, but leads to some unfocused writing. 🙂 Time to post and get some sleep. Much more knitting to do tomorrow!


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Grading on the Curve

My no-longer-so-new job is the largest job I’ve ever had. It’s a job I wanted for several years before the opportunity to apply for it came along. I had some ideas about what the job would include, the kinds of work I’d be doing. And I figured there’s be a world of other things I hadn’t imagined. And I knew I’d have a lot to learn.

Right on all counts. Even the familiar things and the things I figured would be part of the job have presented plenty of mountains to climb in the need-to-learn category. I’ve spent the last 18 months on a learning curve with a broader, more sweeping arc than anything I’ve ever taken on.

All that learning, all that needing to learn, has made lots of room for La Impostora to stride in and get all up in my business. (If you are new to this page, La Impostora is my pet name for and personification of impostor syndrome. She and I have a long and unpleasant history.) And she has been riding shotgun with me since the day I accepted this job.

There is a large piece of my job that has been particularly difficult for me. It involves: 1) learning and understanding two sets of rules, 2) overlaying those rules on some moving parts that tend to move in completely non-complementary ways, 3) fitting the whole swirling chaos into a governing system the logic of which I am only made aware of when a) catastrophe is about to strike or b) catastrophe has already been precipitated by me. This piece of my job impacts every other piece of my job. This is where La Impostora comes to play.

This part of the work stresses me out and calls up all my doubts and fears, so of course it’s La Impostora’s favorite place to be. She has done a great job of reminding me of all the ways I don’t understand this critical piece of my job and how I am more likely to burn everything to the ground before actually learning how to do one part of it even passably well. (You can see why La Impostora is not exactly my favorite imaginary friend.)

This week, however, I tackled this aspect of my job in a way that bordered on capable. Because sometimes I can see La Impostora coming and I can shunt her off into a side room and bar the door. I can remember all the things I came into this job knowing and all the things I’ve learned since I got here. I can actually work through messy problems and find solutions and make disparate pieces function as parts of a whole. This week has surprised and pleased me by being full of moments like that, most particularly in this one super-stressful aspect of the work. I didn’t see it coming at the start of the week, and wouldn’t have guessed that it would keep up for the whole week, but here we are.

I have so much to learn in this job (I mean, SO MUCH), and not everything this week went swimmingly. But it always feels good to be able to turn down La Impostora’s loud, resonant voice, to be able to listen to my own voice. It feels good to see that I have been learning all this time, that I’m moving further in and farther up … that I’m on a curve, not a hamster wheel.


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Missing My Work Family

I started my “new” job in the summer of 2019. I was still very much at the beginning of my aggressive learning curve when Covid came calling. When we got the email announcing the make-this-happen-practically-overnight transition to remote learning, my boss called me and said, “Welcome to your first crisis!”

My first crisis. Phew! Now I’m just over 18 months into this job, and a year of my work has been done in my house. All this time I would have spent working and hanging out with my team, seeing them every day, learning who they are and what they’re like. Instead, I’ve been in my room, seeing them occasionally in Brady Bunch boxes. It’s just so odd, not at all the way I know how to get familiar with people.

We’ve made it work, of course. Zoom and email have had to do the work seeing one another day in and day out would have done. In some ways, the changes brought on by quarantine have given me more contact with some people. My boss, for one. She and I work in different locations. We saw each other often in The Before Times, but quarantine has upped our communication dramatically, accelerated our relationship. Same with the large “outer tier” of folks I work with, people I might exchange emails or phone calls with but only see once a month. For the first semester of lockdown, we saw each other at least once a week, which gave them a chance to learn more about who I am and how I am different from the person they’d worked with before I arrived.

I’ve gotten to see a few folks in person during lockdown. I spent a morning working with my boss a few months ago. One coworker lives practically around the corner from me. It took us until summer, howeer, to realize we could meet up from time to time and go walk in the park together instead of meeting on zoom. Another coworker lives close to the office, and we met up for a walk along the river during one of my plant-watering trips. Each of those meetups has been excellent, so nice to have in-person conversations with people, so nice to be wholly present, not just a face on a screen.

Spending the day in my office today reminded me — as it does every time I go to the office — how much I miss the people I work with. Our office suite is a ghost town, so resoundingly empty. And, as we close in on a year since we all went home, I wonder how long it will be before we get to be face to face again. The work is getting done. Of course. But I want more.


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Mantra of the Mundane

Tomorrow I’ll be working at my office instead of at home. I’ve been going into the office once a week or once every two weeks for the whole of quarantine. I go because my plants are there, and they need regular watering. Yes, I could do what so many of my friends have had to do and just let them go, replace them whenever we’re back on site. I can’t do it, though. Can’t bear to surrender them to the pandemic. I’d love to be able to bring them home, but they don’t much like my apartment, and at least half of them aren’t cat safe, so in the office they stay … which means that to the office I go.

Rather than being a chore or a headache, having to go out pleases me. It’s nice to have a reason to be out and about every week. And my day in the great outdoors gets expanded by including all my errands — the post office, the bank, the drugstore.

Even with my regular runs to work, however, going out remains so foreign that I have to talk myself through getting out the door. At first, I would remind myself to put on a mask. A few false starts later, and I was reminding myself to don a mask, check for my keys and wallet … and put on shoes. Yes, shoes. That’s how unused to the world I’ve become in all these days and weeks and months of seclusion. I should probably add “contacts” to the list, too. I’ve gone out too many times and had to turn around when confronted with the blur of my surroundings.

The list is a kind of chant, a kind of song. Mask, keys, wallet, contacts, shoes. Mask, keys, wallet, contacts, shoes. The  most boring mantra in the history of mantras. I laugh at myself, but I need the crutch to keep myself from being half-dressed, fuzzy-sighted, and locked out!


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Original Slicer - GirlGriot