Status: Poke-buried

Pre-note: 10 points for my mom for being started on her sweater… and for providing lovely content on days that I am snowed under with classes and other things! My shetland yarn is still in a sad box in a sad closet, waiting for an evening when I have a few free hours to just sit and do something. This project will need some devoted attention (apparently without TV) to get started, and it may not end up being portable at all… which is not a great thing when your only knitting time demands ease and portability. On to what I intended to talk about:

I am discovering that I really need time working outside in order to think. I am not a porch-sitter – I would just end up bored to tears and drinking so much sweet tea that I’d spend the rest of the day in the bathroom. No, to get those brain-juices going I need to be doing something productive to get me out of doors for long periods with no background noise – carding wool, shoveling snow, cleaning out the car…

Or picking pokeberries.

My campus-wide pokeberry plea brought an avalanche of responses, leading me to create a spreadsheet of locations and suggestions. Some people noticed a little plant at the corner of whatever streets; some volunteered to pick some for me (!!!); some offered to escort me to a spot they’d noticed; some invited me into their backyards. Pittsburghians are incredibly generous, not to mention observant of their surroundings! A couple of people forwarded the email to their church mailing lists, so before I knew it I was getting phone calls from people I didn’t know offering me to drive me around their neighborhood.

So yesterday I got in the car with a friend of the Dean & President’s wife, who took me to the house of a friend of hers, for whom she is housesitting while they are out of town. And this place is… well. Pokeberry Mecca was the phrase that came to mind. I ended up spending all afternoon there, and coming home with about 25 lbs of pokeberries. (My goal, to note, is to pick about 100 lbs of pokeberries in the next couple of weeks. We bought a freezer.)

Which brings me back to thinking. While thwacking about in the thicket of a friend of a friend of a friend, I did a lot of good useful pondering. I thought about my friends, I thought about my work, about classes I wanted to teach at my new shop, etc. Unfortunately, I realized, most of my best thoughts were coming out not in the form of cohesive essay-worthy concepts, but in the form of… well… status updates. But, I figured, if I group them all together on a topic, maybe they will make something worth posting. So, since I have no pictures to show you (having no idea what I had gotten myself into when I left the house this morning), I give you my thoughts from this afternoon, in the twitty default format of my generation.

“In Maryland/the East Coast, if you are poking around in the undergrowth of a local park forest in an interview outfit and latex gloves, a passerby on the walking trail will ignore you. Really, they don’t want to know what you are doing, though you might hear from a park ranger later. In Western PA/the Midwest, nice people will stop and be very interested, and would probably take a business card if you’d thought to bring your purse into the bush.”

“I should become a pokeberry botanist, because I am learning so much about these crazy plants. They seem to have a proclivity for sunny bits within wooded areas. And I didn’t know there were pokeweed plants so big that you could stand straight up inside of them and not be able to reach the berries growing out of the top.”

“After getting sideswiped and smeared with so many pokeberries, I look like a purple-blooded alien who just had a rather spirited disagreement with a housecat.”

“Who knew that dyeing yarn hunter-gatherer style would be such a great way to meet new people?”

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