Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jenny Wren

Please note, that the entire time it takes me to share the lore, legends, literary heritage, and Audubon factoids about Jenny Wren, Jenny Wren flies in and out of my house, nest materials in beak, making anew her nest (where inside I'm not yet sure), while Hubby pads the nest outside my window, more cautious? happy to make do?

I've been gone thirteen days, slept at home last night (with the front door closed), opened it up this morning, . . . and in comes Jenny Wren. She and her male bested the cardinals in competition for the robin's nest at my window, so I've got visual access to her, as she, immediately this morning, re-entered the living room: what memory, what what? brought her right back in as soon as she was able? (But she shall not make a nursery in my doggie treat jar again).

So, googling around on House Wrens, I'm beginning to take offense at others' characterizations:

  • "[Another] thing about House Wrens is that they are not too choosy about where they build their homes. " Clearly, my Jenny is very choosy, discriminating, and tenacious of her homestead.
  • Here's a pair of "Jenny Wren" socks: but when I say "here" and the image appears "there," above, it means I can't figure out how to interpolate where I want the photo into the blog.

  • And here's Paul McCartney's "Jenny Wren" :

with lyrics:

Like so many girls, Jenny Wren could sing
But a broken heart, took her song away

Like the other girls, Jenny Wren took wing
She could see the world, and its foolish ways

How, we, spend our days, casting, love aside
Losing, sight of life, day, by, day

She saw poverty, breaking up her home
Wounded warriors, took her song away

(solo) verse, chorus

But the day will come, Jenny Wren will sing
When this broken world, mends its foolish ways

Then we, spend our days, catching up on life
All be-cause of you, Jenny Wren

You saw who we are, Jenny Wren

  • In the nineteenth century, in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Jenny Wren is "a child — a dwarf — a girl — a something, " the put-upon and old-before-her-time daughter of an alcoholic father, orphaned by her mother's death. The following tells her story using quotes from the book:

A parlour door within a small entry stood open, and disclosed a child -- a dwarf -- a girl -- a something -- sitting on a little low old-fashioned arm-chair, which had a kind of little working bench before it. "I can't get up," said the child, "because my back's bad, and my legs are queer. But I'm the person of the house. . . . You can't tell me the name of my trade I'll be bound. . . I'm a doll's dressmaker." Her real name was Fanny Cleaver; but she had long ago chosen to bestow upon herself the appellation of Miss Jenny Wren."

[Miss Jenny Wren describes how she finds the fashions for her dolls] "Look here. There's a Drawing Room, or a grand day in the Park, or a Show, or a Fete, or what you like. Very well. I squeeze among the crowd, and I look about me. When I see a great lady very suitable for my business, I say 'You'll do, my dear!' and I take particular notice of her, and run home and cut her out and baste her."

"Then another day, I come scudding back again to try on, and then I take particular notice of her again. Sometimes she plainly seems to say, 'How that little creature is staring!' and sometimes likes it and sometimes don't, but much more often yes than no. All the time I am only saying to myself, 'I must hollow out a bit here; I must slope away there;' and I am making a perfect slave of her, with making her try on my doll's dress. Evening parties are severer work for me, because there's only a doorway for a full view, and what with hobbling among the wheels of the carriages and the legs of the horses, I fully expect to be run over some night. However, there I have 'em, just the same. When they go bobbing into the hall from the carriage, and catch a glimpse of my little physiognomy poked out from behind a policeman's cape in the rain, I dare say they think I am wondering and admiring with all my eyes and heart, but they little think they're only working for my dolls!"

[Miss Jenny Wren tells of the shining children] "For when I was a little child," [she said] in a tone as though it were ages ago, "the children that I used to see early in the morning were very different from any others that I ever saw. They were not like me: they were not chilled, anxious, ragged, or beaten; they were never in pain.. ."

". . .such numbers of them too! All in white dresses, and with something shining on the borders, and on their heads, that I have never been able to imitate with my work, though I know it so well. They used to come down in long bright shining rows, and say all together, 'Who is this in pain? Who is this in pain?' When I told them who it was, they answered, 'Come and play with us!' When I said, 'I never play! I can't play!' they swept about me and took me up, and made me light. Then it was delicious ease and rest till they laid me down, and said all together, 'Have patience, and we will come again.'"

[Miss Jenny Wren is blessed with friendship] It being Lizzie [Hexam's] regular occupation when they were alone of an evening to brush out and smooth the long fair hair of the dolls' dressmaker, she unfastened a ribbon that kept it back while the little creature was at her work, and it fell in a beautiful shower over the poor shoulders that were much in need of such adorning rain.

  • Only slightly later than Dickens, round about the turn of that other century, appears E. Cobham Brewer (1810–1897), with his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898:

Jenny Wren,

the sweetheart of Robin Redbreast. 1

“Robin promised Jenny, if she would be his wife, she should ‘feed on cherry-pie and drink currant-wine’; and he says:—

‘I’ll dress you like a goldfinch,
Or any peacock gay;
So, dearest Jen, if you’ll be mine,
Let us appoint the day.’
Jenny replies: 2

‘Cherry-pie is very nice,
And so is currant wine;
But I must wear my plain brown gown,
And never go too fine.’”

  • But the finest, oddest account I can find, in its original 1820 facsimile is this child's reader:
A very small book,
At a very small charge,
To learn them to read
Before they grow large.

I CAN GIVE YOU ONLY THE website, and promise it's worth your visit:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

sunrise and sunset: I can't come home.

I won't post knitting pictures this time, as the photographed images I snapped are of surprises, for Steven and Hickory. Those I knit during my first--my only scheduled, intended--week in Huron City. But I failed to leave the shores of Lake Huron. I am failing to not thrive. I have to be back in Ithaca by Saturday night, and that may well be when I get back (if I can remember to check the internet late in the week to ascertain when Saturday appears).

Having but little stash left on my vacation, having used most of it for the Baby Lee surprises and an Irish Hiking Scarf, in Berocco something or other with silk that was 50% off at the Knitting Etc Spring Sale, I am now knitting an Alice Starmore Aran sweater in multiple colors, with a fine (and surprise) yarn, one I have about thirteen skeins of, but each skein a different color. I've just built the in-the-round bottom, up to four inches, in Navy; and am taking a break after a long morning's mindfulness (there's not a five-stitch sequence of the same stitch in the whole bloody garment (dash it all for the too attractive picture that snared me: if it's not a single cross cable it's seed stitch or 1 x 1 ribbing or 3 x 1 cabling)).

But I stayed in Michigan precisely for the slowing down, the mindfulness, the solitude. My sister and brother-in-law, with whom I spent a wonderful week walking, talking, reading, and (me) knitting, left on Sunday, when I was leaving. Now I'm left. Now it's me, the three dogs, and the weather.

Ah, the weather.

It dropped from 86 degrees ( a very ominous and sudden 86 degrees) to 38 degrees, in the course of the evening and overnight. That's almost fifty degrees. And now it's about fifty and blowing to beat the band, in a full sun. Weather is a chief occupation up here, in Natechuh. At dawn I was sitting with my coffee at the picture window in the master bedroom thanking the weather tides for lowering the temperature and picking up the drama: big white caps, fourteen shades of gray and blue, something akin to a howl, backsides of baby leaves getting a whatfur.

I've made a fire in the "frpl" (furpull, realtor ad speak). I wore two sweaters, a sweatshirt, and my down jacket, to walk with the dogs up and down, up and down the beach this morning. I'm all for all the weather we can get.

I've read the four books I brought, to prepare for summer school teaching, last week. Our books in the family cottage have been standing here for centuries; well, decades. I've either devoured, tasted, or outright refused each one over multiple years. There'd better be one good book at the Port Austin Library, ten miles away, because I found Waiting--that I borrowed from the family cottage next door, after exhausting my own exhausted book shelves--well, like waiting. It performs what it says it's about. I kept waiting. From the first sentence, the guy is waiting, for the seventeenth summer in a row, for his wife to agree to get a divorce. At the start of the book he's a doctor; two chapters later, he's waiting to become a doctor. Ho hum, don't think I'll revisit that book tonight. Maybe I'll write a book.

Okay, no knitting pictures. But some pictures from where I am, to save me the trouble of finding words to explain why I have not come home. (I'll be back here, in Huron City, for perhaps three weeks in August, with lots of kids, mother, grandchildren, cousins. Now all is quiet.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Off to Huron City

Now (Kylie) I'm a bit more back up to speed: four sweaters in the three weeks since I finished, and breathed hard after, the heffalump fair isle. All baby and size four-year-old sweaters, in Colinette Cadenza and Schaefer Susan cotton. Tomorrow I'm off for a week in Michigan, to read, and to knit a Hickory-and-Steven "Little Lee" surprise (it wouldn't be a surprise if I was coding that comment to a certain Zimmerman sweater, now would it? That's not what I'll do on the shores of Lake Huron, by the birch-wood fire, following the lapping waters to set my stitch rhythm; no, something else).

I did a few sweaters at speed, adding a ruffle here and there, a picot neck line, but mostly happy to go fast after the attentiveness of the elephant sweater. Then this fourth Samantha, for a fourth little girl, this one not yet among us.

With my front door and kitchen windows open against the mildness of May, I yesterday entertained a new critter, one who gave new meanings to her name: House Wren. Her first swing through my living room was a mistake, with much snorting and bopping off surfaces. But she liked it, and grew certain of her ways through the house. Since I spent much of the day at my computer in the nearby study, I'd catch glances of her swift departures, hear twinkles of her busyness in the kitchen. Gathering ghosts of old leaves and dried pansy stems for nesting, she and her mate (and two cardinals) were busy outside my study's picture window, nattering about who would build on last year's robin's nest on the front stoop light. Only later in the day did I find that she'd been building her nest in the dog's cookie jar, ajar; laying down a day's work over the Greenie treats.

That's my HOUSE wren. I've had to close those passages: since I'm leaving tomorrow, the house will be shut up, and she'd be a wreck trying to get to her new nest. While the goings and comings lasted, though, I felt ever more a part of the great outdoors, none of that winter shutting off from nature. Imagined I was in a Belize rain forest.