What you are looking at is hydrangea flowers above Kawaguchiko, in the the foothills of Mt. Fuji. I took this picture in July 2003, the summer I spent living in a Buddhist monastery in Japan. All the books about Buddhism that I’d read for my religious studies classes in college said that you needed to practice meditation seriously in order to really understand what it was about, so I decided to go do that for awhile. The monks and nuns gave us western acolytes one day off a week to explore the surrounding countryside, and on one of those days my friend Naberay and I took the bus to the nearest town, which was Kawaguchiko.

I’m showing you this because I’ve just finished knitting my mother’s Christmas present, and the colors of the yarn reminded me of nothing so much as those Kawaguchiko hydrangeas. Observe:


The hydrangeas were literally everywhere. Naberay and I took a gondola to the top of a small mountain in the shadow of Mt. Fuji and hiked back down, among hundreds and hundreds of these flowers. The picture below will give you a sense of the scope, but blue predominates in this particular patch in a way that doesn’t match this scarf quite as exactly:


That’s me down there, surrounded on all sides by hydrangeas. So you can understand why they have been burned into my brain, and why this particular range of blues and purples would bring them instantly to mind.


Here’s a shot where you can see the stitch pattern of the scarf more clearly. The yarn is Malabrigo Silky Merino, a 51% silk, 49% merino wool yarn. The folks at Malabrigo call this colorway “atardecer,” which is Spanish for “dusk,” which certainly makes sense, but I’m going to call this project “Hydrangea Scarf” on Ravelry for obvious reasons. It’s a La Novia scarf — yet another pattern by Anne Hanson, whose work I cannot get enough of. The pattern is a little tricky, partially because there is patterning on both right- and wrong-side rows (so I had to remember how to read a chart backwards for the wrong side), and partially because it contains the dreaded p2tog tbl stitch — but after the first couple of times through the pattern repeat, I got the hang of it. For the first night or two I needed to do a lot of looking at the chart, which is annoying because I do all my knitting in front of the TV, but once I got used to it, this pattern just flew by. I was a little worried that the Silky Merino yarn would be too slippery to hold the shape of the pattern, but it turned out perfectly. The scarf is not even blocked in these photos, and I’m not sure that I’m going to block it at all — I think my mom will like the density that it’s got now, and she’s not really in the market for a particularly open, airy scarf anyway.

I’ve also gotten started on this hat for my brother:


It’s a reversible Botanic Hat by Stephen West, an up-and-coming designer of knitwear at least theoretically aimed at men. I say “theoretically” because not too many guys I know are eager to wear shawls, no matter how manly the color choices are. But I like this hat a lot, and I like the reverse side even more (which you’ll get to see next time), and I think it’s exactly the sort of thing my brother will like. The yarn is Malabrigo Merino Worsted, in the “marron oscuro” and “vaa” colorways.

Co-starring in this picture are Sprouty and Sprouty Jr, two baby sunflowers that I am currently trying to grow from a “grow-your-own-sunflower” kit that Pat won in a game of dominoes about three years ago. Pat is preternaturally good at dominoes; my friends and I more or less all learned the game at the same time (about three years ago), and from that very first day Pat has won about 90% of our games. Now, dominoes is not a very complicated game, and the strategy seems pretty straightforward to me, but the sheer number of his victories indicates that Pat must be operating on a strategic level far beyond my comprehension. This sunflower kit had been sitting on our kitchen table for several months, having resurfaced when Pat moved in with me in April, and finally one day last week I decided to plant the suckers. I had a streak of bad luck with plants when I first moved to southern California after having a pretty green thumb back east; I chalked it up to the dry climate and my inability to remember to water them as much as they needed, but I gave up on plants altogether back then. About three years ago I inherited a peace lily from my ex who was moving away, and I’ve managed to keep it alive since then only because it’s a very hardy and very forgiving plant. Like Holly Golightly and her cat without a name, I’ve been reluctant to name this peace lily partially because I feel like it’s just a stray that I happen to be looking after and partially because I’m afraid that if I do, it’ll up and die on me. But back east I was a big plant-namer, and I’ve already gone and named the Sprouty brothers, and watching them grow is starting to remind me of the joys of gardening, so there may soon be more green friends in my life. We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Botanicals

  1. Your images of Kawaguchiko are incredible!!!!!

    I think it is important to view such images every day, throughout the day. I believe that the peacefulness and sheer beauty would become imbedded in my consciousness. I am grateful that you shared them, and I would love to look at those images every day…(as well as hear more about experience living in a Buddhist monastery).

    Given your intention, as well as the memory and images of Kawaguchiko, your Mom’s Christmas gift is destined to be off the charts.

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